The Importance of Communication

8 August 2016

Communication is something we learn to do from the minute we’re born. Babies cry for lots of different reasons whether there cold, hungry, dirty, or lonely. As a parent we learn to respond to the different sound each cry makes and before you know it communication has been established. As we get older we learn different ways of communicating mainly speech but others consist of eye contact, posture, proximity, facial expressions, listening and silence which is collectively known as body language.

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Communication is a very valuable tool without which life would be pretty dull and lonely. However there is a right way and a wrong way to communicate with someone. Communication used in a friendly way can be both reassuring and comforting to someone in distress or who maybe anxious about something. Being able to calm someone down who is scared or distressed isn’t an easy task but it’s about being able to listen and understand the meaning behind their discomfort and try to make it better which is a very rewarding experience.

It’s about gaining someone’s trust so that person feels safe and relaxed in your company who knows you might even become friends. I have been researching more into bad communication and want to make this the focal point of the exercise. Used negatively communication becomes a form of abuse, either physically or mentally. I came across a couple of articles about communication breakdown in residential care homes one of which being Winterbourne View care home which cares for people with learning difficulties and autism.

Four people were arrested from there in 2011 after secret filming by BBC’s Panorama showed a pattern of serious abuse. Instead of trying to get on with the residents some of the care staff were seen pinning them down with chairs and kicking them until they apologized for whatever the staff thought they should be sorry for. It didn’t matter whether they had done anything wrong or not they were repeatedly punished. Forgetting that the people in their care were mentally disabled and don’t necessarily see the world the same way as they do.

The ideal way to have handled any situation that may have arisen would have been for the carers to have asked them what they were doing and why and maybe explain to them it wasn’t the right thing to do. One of the residents at the care home had told her parents she was being abused but her parents dismissed the information telling her it wouldn’t be allowed to happen. This was the first point that communication broke down.

Thankfully a support worker was concerned enough about the level of care being given to do something about it and reported it to the senior management at the care home but nothing was done and the abuse went on, then they reported it to the CQC (Care Quality Commission) who already had had complaints of the care being given also did nothing to stop the abuse. As drastic measure the support worker decided to report it to the BBC Panorama programmers, who went in with secret camera’s and filmed the abuse as it happened once video footage had been shown there was no denying the abuse that was happening.

An investigation showed that there was a major breakdown in communication between support workers right through to the big wigs at CQC, were it emerged that the CQC had reduced the amount of inspections carried out to 7,368 but told parliament in its annual review they had doubled them and had carried out 15,220. CQC had also cut down on the amount of investigations it carried out into care scandals. Unfortunately this situation happens all too often and support isn’t there when it’s needed. If you don’t get support from management where else are you supposed to get it from?

The CQC should be a last resort, but in this instance it took Panorama to get involved before anything was done about the care given. There was a happy ending of sorts for this care home and the residents involved but unfortunately this is all too common in care homes and in other types of care industries. Physical contact can be a reassuring calming productive expression of communication but in this instance the physical contact lead to being hit, hair being pulled, being kicked, having cold water poured over your body and having a completely opposite effect leaving the person feeling alone, isolated, withdrawn. This is definite abuse.

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