No matter your position or your workplace environment, you will likely have to deal with difficult or aggressive patients throughout your career. Although it may be understandable that patients who have lost their independence or are highly anxious may lose control of their emotions, it doesn't make it easier on in-home care providers. These angry patients or family members can test the limits of your compassion, communication skills, and patience.
If not properly managed, dealing with the repercussions of a difficult patient may spill over into your communication with the patient’s friends, family, and loved ones. Whether your patient is angry, manipulative, demanding or downright aggressive, it's important you handle the situation with forethought and strategy. Here are several suggestions to help you through the situation.
While easier said than done, the best approach is always to remain calm and remember the patient is not attacking you personally, but likely acting on feelings of anxiety, fear, and stress. If your behavior escalates, so will the patients. By remaining calm, you're able to stay in control of the situation and help diffuse it, rather than become part of it.
Develop a Strategy
If you have ever worked in a hospital situation, you know it has a formal disaster plan. You need one too. By planning what you'll do when a patient becomes unreasonably angry or overly-emotional, you'll be able to respond quickly and decisively.
One of the quickest ways to defuse a situation is to be empathetic toward their situation. It's helpful to remember the challenges your patient is facing as they may be in pain, highly stressed and unsure of what's happening next. By identifying with their feelings and demonstrating you care about them, it's more likely you'll smooth over the situation. This includes avoiding any argument with family members or friends. Although your opinion is important, it is crucial you speak respectfully as this will go a long way toward lowering emotions.
Set Your Boundaries
Sometimes patients are difficult all the time and it may seem as if they're making endless or unreasonable demands. In this case, it's useful to set limits with them and yourself. In other words, let them clearly know what you'll be doing next and follow through. At the same time, set limits with yourself so you don't continually accept the emotional baggage your patient may want to place on you. In some situations, you'll need boundaries to keep yourself safe, and doing so can help avoid escalating the situation.
While you may have some patients, who are cranky on some days or angry on others, there are those who manipulate your behavior by threatening, crying or throwing temper tantrums to get their way. Unfortunately, many are stuck in their ways and will do all they can to convince you of their needs and demands. It's important you recognize your own feelings and not let them overwhelm you. Oftentimes, patients who are manipulative just want to engage you in a heated argument in order to win.
Dealing with difficult patients is just part of working in an in-home healthcare position. While it's not the most appealing aspect of providing care, these patients do not have to bring you down. By following these steps and remaining professional, you’ll likely find your patients' behavior changes over time
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