Wearing PPE in domiciliary care has become a vital component of care and support delivery since the advent of Covid-19.Whilst infection control and hygiene maintenance have always been uppermost in our care delivery, masks were only needed in special cases where there was an infection risk.

Now, masks, goggles and visors hide our faces as we enter the homes of those we support and enable.

And we have realised we need to readdress our communication methods and skills to leap over this new barrier in creating and maintaining relationships and well-being.

The 7-93 rule is a concept concerning the communication of emotions. The rule states that 7 % of meaning is communicated through spoken word and 93 % through non-verbal communication.

Non-verbal communication includes:

Facial expression (lost through wearing masks, goggles and visors)
Eye contact
Tone of voice
Gestures
Touch
Body movement, posture and space

The most important facial expression is lost through wearing masks, goggles and visors, so how can we compensate for this?

Humans adapt well to changing circumstances and we need to speed up this adaptation, looking at the other methods of non verbal communication and how we can potentiate these:

1) Identifying ourselves

When we walk into to an individual’s home, it is vital to put on the face mask last, as per correct PPE donning procedure, whilst still 2 metres away from the individual we are supporting. This allows for recognition to occur, taking away any fear or insecurity.
Large visible name badge, to help individuals to recognise their care giver
Photos: we have placed in all our home files a sheet with photos and names of the entire team at Mindful Care and Support, this was hugely appreciated by individuals and their support networks. A truly personal touch.
Explaining the necessity for PPE where necessary.

2) Eye contact

We need to express as much as possible through eye contact, including:

Direct eye contact at all times
Smiling through the eyes. This is truly possible and worth practicing at home.
Widening the eyes to show interest
Showing compassion and empathy through the eyes

We need to stop, think and look at how our eyes appear and remember to practice this at all times when caring for and supporting individuals.

3) Tone of voice:

This accounts for 38% of communication, so it is paramount to reflect what we mean to say and the feelings we want to communicate through the tone of voice.
Positive, clear language
Smiling as you speak, a smile can be heard in your voice
Concern and empathy can also be heard
Try recording your voice to show:

A smile
Empathy
Concern
Decision

4) Gestures

A thumbs up can work wonders, as can hands palms up, unclenched
Gestures can also help where verbal communication is limited

5) Touch

The wearing of disposable gloves allows us to add a caring touch, a small caress or pat can make a big difference, where appropriate

6) Body, movement and space

Having an open stance, not moving too fast and leaving enough space for individuals to feel secure, where possible, is also important

In conclusion, the most important ways to counteract the PPE barrier are rethinking and focusing our efforts on our eye contact, tone of voice, gestures and touch.