Caring for Difficult Clients/Seniors

Do you feel like you’re at the end of your rope? Do you need some help? We know how hard it can be at times caring for difficult clients. Take a deep breath and keep reading. Hopefully this will help you…

Difficult care Clients can be excessively demanding, angry, manipulative, or critical at times.  Here are some other commonly behaviors that you may also encounter;

  • Refusing or failing to eat
  • Resistance to showers and hygiene
  • Refusal of help; caregiver, family etc
  • Constant complaining – about everything, including you, no matter how hard you try to help
  • Agitation, anger and verbal aggression
  • Failure or refusal to take needed medications
  • Paranoia and hallucinations –
  • Forgetting; losing things; confusion; wandering
  • Extreme disorganization and cluttered chaos, while refusing help
  • Repetitiveness
  • Other challenging behaviors – you fill in the blank_______.

As a caregiver, if you are facing some of these challenging elderly behaviors, or others, chances are you are under extreme stress in trying to learn to deal with them. We know it’s so easy to think you are doing something wrong, or you respond with anger, guilt and/or exhaustion.

Depression, anger, anxiety, or pain can drain caregivers who must regularly interact with abusive or combative seniors. Typically, as caregiver you are almost always the target of their aggression or other antics, because you are there. At first, you probably do not understand what is happening.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Well you are NOT alone. Struggling to cope with challenging client behaviors is often the 600 pound elephant in the life of the caregiver – the most difficult part of care-giving, until you learn how to deal with these behaviors. They may just be a normal expression of the frustration your client feels in facing the challenges of aging, or a symptom of unmet emotional or psychological needs. But, such behaviors are also, in fact, among the prime symptoms that your loved one may be suffering from depression (so common in the elderly), or another physical ailment, such as a thyroid condition or urinary tract infection (also very common), which makes him or her irritable. Or, these behaviors may be a significant symptom that they may be in the early – or not so early – stages of Alzheimer’s/ Dementia.

We realize at times things can be challenging but hang in there and try some of the following things to help you through these difficult times;

  • Take a deep breath and breathe
  • Please contact the office and let us know both good and not so good things that are going on with your client/case. We understand that things may not always be the greatest but in order for things to improve you need to trust us and call us. You WILL not lose your job but we will work with you and work through the problem.  Even if you need to call and vent your scheduler is there to listen and help you anyway they can.
  • Learn to behave in helpful ways as the caregiver. If you know your client is struggling with something first let the office know. But educate yourself so you understand and react properly to the behavior and not making things worse.
  • Don’t argue with your client; this will only make it worse. It is not important to convince them that they are wrong.
  • Attempt to distract the person from repetitive or hostile communication or behavior or from paranoid delusions, by changing the subject and re-directing his attention to something positive that may absorb him.
  • Don’t take aggressive or complaining behavior personally; it is not about you, but rather about some physical problem or unmet needs, fears, emotions, or cognitive issues your elder has and may not be able to express in other ways.
  • Focus on understanding and meeting your loved one’s underlying physical and emotional needs and validating her feelings, not necessarily on the content of any communication or difficult behavior.
  • Realize that your loved one probably cannot help it; despite how it may seem, he probably is not trying to be difficult just to irritate you.
  • To address noncompliance with required hygiene (showers, etc.) or other scheduled requirements of daily living, don’t push and order them. Try to give them a sense that he/she still has some control over his/her life, by perhaps suggesting two alternative times or other choices for them to make. Speak clearly and simply, suggesting one small step at a time, so that the chore does not seem overwhelming; but don’t be patronizing or treat him as a child.
  • To address fears, start small. Lovingly try to coax him one small step at a time. Keep the interaction short, at first.
  • Be soothing, loving, compassionate, and patient. Natural (and non-threatening) embracing and touching to show your love and affection usually are helpful.
  • Keep a record and learn what triggers the problem behaviors; then take steps to avoid these situations recurring.
  • Accept and respect the person as she is. Treat your loved one with respect, and don’t patronize, talk “baby talk” or treat her as a child.

As a caregiver, you must “learn on the job” the best ways to deal with your client. The most important basic guideline is to act with love and extreme patience.   Each person is a unique individual, and even experts advise that dealing with day to day issues often requires creativity.

We appreciate you all so much and we realize what each of you give up to be a live in and hourly caregiver.   Thank you for dedicating your life to help others.  You’re making an enormous difference in each and every life you touch!   Keep up the amazing work ladies and don’t forget to call with any concerns, ideas, or comments.