You’ve just come out of your office to take your final walk through the facility on a Friday afternoon before ending the week. Maybe your week went smoothly; maybe it was a rough one. Either way, you’re getting ready to start your weekend, hoping for a little rest and relaxation. Then, you see her walking down the hall, and she’s headed your way. The family member that makes your staff want to run and hide. The one who always comes to your building with complaints and grievances. You want to duck inside the kitchen, the activities room – even the soiled linens room will do. But you don’t. You put a smile on your face and greet this family member, because dealing with challenging family members is part of the job. In fact, it is an important part of the job.
For most people, dealing with unhappy family members is a skill that is learned and developed over time with experience and practice. When you work in the senior living environment, dealing with challenging family members is a guarantee, so it’s best to ensure you are prepared for those difficult conversations.
It is important to put this type of situation into perspective. Try to understand what the resident’s family member is dealing with at the moment. Some of the emotions that many family members are experiencing include fear, grief, and guilt. These emotions can easily lead to a person acting or speaking in a way that is out of character for them and being able to react to that encounter in such a way that communicates genuine empathy goes a long way toward guiding the conversation in a more civilized and productive direction.
According to Healthy Workforce Institute’s 2018 article, “4 Step Action Plan: How to Deal with Difficult Patients & Families”, there are several strategies for easing the tension of a difficult conversation. Two of these include:
Additional steps to take when navigating a contentious conversation with a family member include:
While it is one of the most unpleasant tasks associated with being a caregiver or healthcare manager, handling these uncomfortable conversations effectively is important to achieving and maintaining satisfied customers. It also goes a long way toward diffusing situations that evolve into litigation.
For additional ideas or support when dealing with difficult families, reach out to your AssuredPartners Senior Living Insurance and Risk Management professionals.
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