At some point in your career as a medical professional, you'll likely have to deal with grouchy clients. While it is understandable that pain, loss and anxiety may be at the center of their behavior, it doesn't make it easier on you. Clients who are upset, angry or just plain grouchy may test your compassion, communication skills, and patience. It helps to know the underlying cause is not personal or aimed at you.
Start by Recognizing the Signs
You might have been warned by the caregiver on the previous shift that the client has been in a bad mood. Or, you may recognize the signs of someone becoming angry and upset by their clenched fists, change in behavior or tighten jaw muscles. Each of these offers you the opportunity to use strategies that diffuse the situation before it eventually spirals out of control.
It is also important to recognize the emotional challenges of a grouchy patient can be much more exhausting than the responsibilities of caring for someone who has a more serious medical illness. It may begin by dreading the time with the client. But, it's important to get past your own feelings and seek ways of communicating with a client and their family to meet their needs.
Watch Your Language and Body Language
When you're dealing with a grouchy patient, it is important to read their body language and watch your own as closely as possible. Although it may be difficult to verbalize how to read body language, most people do it intuitively. This means your client may intuitively be reading your body language, increasing their own feelings of frustration, anger and desire to manipulate. As you watch your own body language, it helps to prevent the situation from escalating. First, take stock of your own emotions and remain calm.
Use Positive Language to Diffuse the Situation
Avoid using negative language that makes the client appear careless or less intelligent. The statements such as “you say that”, “I fail to understand how”, or “you should,” can lead to an escalation. Instead, try starting a sentence with “let me explain our position”, “might I suggest”, or “an option might be,” as these are non-threatening statements. This may not change the situation, but it will certainly not escalate it either. These statements also focus your attention on empathy, allowing the client to express their feelings and expressions. It is not always easy to be a client, having lost your Independence or having to rely on someone else to do what you were once able to do. Sometimes, it's just helpful to let the client stay angry for a short time or blow off steam.
Steer Clear of Personal Space
When your client is grouchy and angry, it's helpful to be sensitive and think about how you would feel if you were in their shoes. This means respecting them no matter how they act or what happens. It's helpful to remind yourself they are not a bad person but have only found themselves in a bad situation. Don't invade their personal space by either getting too close or too far away. By staying a safe distance, you give them personal space while communicating your care and still want to be around them. Remember not to try and touch someone when they're feeling angry, as it can make things worse.
Remember to Do Your Job
Sometimes grouchy clients are just part of the job. It is not a reason to get angry with the client. Each has their own unique individual qualities and are facing their own unique individual challenges. Use good communication skills to deal with your clients no matter what their temperament is. Offering them assurances and reassurance helps to solve emotional issues they may be grappling with, such as a fear of being neglected or being left behind.
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