Caring Questions is a wonderfully written and very short book that is filled with a variety of conversation starters for care partners. Jennifer Antkowiak speaks from deep personal experience. She is a caregiver herself with five children and one step-child. She shared in the end-of-life journeys of her own mother, her mother-in-law and father-in-law. Professionally, as an award-winning TV newscaster, she has made a living asking pertinent questions that get people talking.
Sometimes communication can be challenging! Difficult diagnoses, end-of-life decision making, and past issues in your relationship can effect the way we communicate with our loved ones. As a caregiver advocate, the author gently and kindly supports you as you begin to consciously make an effort to understand each other, and yourself more deeply.
This book is so easy to use because of the size (6×6 inches and 1/2 inch thick), the content and the space it gives for you to write down essential details to preserve the lasting memories.
The questions have a broad range from reflective to silly and meets the spectrum of moods and situations where you might find yourself. Rather than turning on the TV or doing other parallel activities together, you can use this wonderful tool to open up a world of conversation. It’s common to feel that you don’t have the “right words” to say. Sometimes times of silence are more powerful than words. Remember that much of communication is non-verbal. We can listen and we can become astute observers. Just your presence alone can mean so much. A warm smile, a soft touch, and a positive attitude demonstrating authentic caring and love for someone is just as valuable.
Perhaps a person with memory loss is experiencing challenges to communicating like word-finding difficulty, for example. Keep in mind that these barriers are only roadblocks and we can get around them one way or another. Do resist temptation to “correct” a conversation. Be patient, calm and hold in your heart that you are doing this in the spirit of helpfulness and love.
Here are a few samples to get you started:
~”What’s one movie or book that always makes you laugh?”
~”When did you know what career path you wanted to follow?
~”How did your parents react when you got in trouble or misbehaved? What were typical punishments?”
~”What do you think was the best time we had together?”
As you can see the questions and topics can be about childhood, working, family life, world views and wishes to leave behind for future generations. All of them were thoughtfully chosen and written to help you get the most out of your time together. You should also join in the conversation because your enthusiasm will promote a more full and rich experience! It might be difficult to open up in this way if you haven’t ever tried it before. It is recommended that to get in the right frame of mind and to get grounded you take a few deep, cleansing breaths. You can do this by referring to my 5-minute mindfulness tips.
I encourage you to try out some caring conversations of your own and notice the depth of understanding and feelings of connection that grow knowing that these moments will turn into memories to cherish for a lifetime.