If you ask someone if there’s anything you can do for them, residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere likely won’t tell you one big thing most everyone appreciates: someone to listen to them.
This is especially true with people receiving end of life care, who may be facing all sorts of questions and concerns, but don’t know if anyone wants to hear them.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care does their best to listen to their patients – some of this is part of the basic job duties, like hearing what a patient is feeling mentally or physically. This information can help them or any caregivers assess their status, determine if anything needs to be changed such as diet or medicine, or any providers notified.
But beyond the basic summary of a patient’s health condition, our staff also likes to take the effort to engage our patients and hear what’s on their minds.
We’ve enjoyed hearing all sorts of wonderful stories, and even though we’re familiar with the end of life process from working in the industry for so long, it’s still a new experience to the patient and their family. This means lots of questions, observations, and discussion.
We also invite caregivers, family members or other loved ones to figure out ways to listen better. This helps everyone: the seniors enjoy having an audience and the people listening also might acquire some useful wisdom or learn more about someone’s life.
Why it’s important
Beyond general etiquette of “listen to your elders,” the effort of hearing them can accomplish quite a lot.
Dr. Karl A. Pillemer, a contributor to Forbes, said the value of active listening to elders is something instinctual and may also be helping prolong the human species. It’s an opportunity for people who have been around awhile in life to share their experiences, knowledge, and wisdom.
Primeval humans may be interested in more practical information, such as where to find the safest food items or warnings about certain animals.
So in these early tribal moments in the days of oral traditions, an elder has a lot to share and a younger tribal member has a lot to learn.
Pillemer said the wisdom from our elders is also useful in helping illuminate the past. Someone who only knows the world they grow up in may enjoy hearing what happened before they came around. What did people do, say, and wear? What hobbies do people have? What was school like? All of this information can essentially connect someone older to someone younger who may not realize what the world was like in the past, everything from wars to fashion to daily activities.
If all goes well, the person listening to a story from an elder today may be able to incorporate this information into their own life stories and lessons, and someday, they may pass it on to their own descendants.
The opposite of not listening
When we try to look at the importance of better listening to elders in their lives, part of the equation should include a discussion about why people aren’t listening well.
This seems to be a social phenomenon affecting any age, from young people not listening to their parents to politicians not listening to their constituents. Political topics especially can make someone tune out and not want to hear any more.
Maybe this lack of listening has something to do with people having less patience – everyone is so busy that taking time to listen to someone’s slow-moving stories that are only semi-interesting can be a challenge.
People may be inclined to start playing with their phones or looking for ways to tune out or disengage from hearing the same story they may have heard before. These are some larger issues, but items that can affect people’s abilities and interests.
Why listening works
In the end, honing good listening skills can have all sorts of benefits.
Entrepreneur tells us that in a business setting, listening can help patients feel comfortable and relaxed. Active listening shows the patient they’re important and worth slowing down for and giving a lot of attention. It can help employees feel empowered and give people ideas on what customers want and don’t want.
The opposite is true too: if you don’t know or don’t care what customers want, your business is likely to make some dangerous and costly assumptions that may not hold up.
There are some other values to good listening. Simply put, giving people attention makes them feel good, and also makes you feel good.
It’s why friends communicate well together, and why strangers try to find a common ground quickly, especially in situations where people have to get along quickly
Listening to what’s on someone’s mind also helps push away the anxiety, loneliness, and insecurity that many people may have. It simply shows you care.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to work with people who want to listen better and be listened to.