Working with families of our resident population can be challenging at times. Maintaining objectivity when you find yourself repeating or rehashing things of the past is sometimes the most challenging. Although the following is somewhat obvious, getting into what family members may perceive as “arguments” is easy to do.
An argument is an attempt to prove right and wrong. Proving a family member wrong may provide some temporary satisfaction for the health care provider, but it often damages the rapport with family and forces them to defend their actions. The most common basis for an argument is when the health care provider has decided what the problem is and chosen a pre-determined solution. Deciding what is best for the family results in only telling the family what to do rather than helping them to discover what they need.
Remember that regardless of how a family member responds, they believe they are right. Arguing with family communicates that they are not understood. Usually in an argument, a family member is attempting to express a need. The health care provider must maintain objectivity and be open minded enough to uncover that need. Once an argument begins, it is important to become family focused in order to learn what it is that the family member is trying to say. A valuable response that can change the direction of any argument is:
“I’ve been arguing with you instead of listening. I want to understand how you see the situation. Please continue.”
In this way, the health care provider enhances rapport, clarifies the problem from the family member’s perspective and has an opportunity to find the compromise that will resolve the issue. When you find yourself on a “merry-go-round”, it is probably time to get off.
Condensed excerpt from Len Fabiano”s book “Doing Our Best for Your Mother: Working with Families of Aging Parents” copyright.
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