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  • Writer's pictureGaynor Lowndes

Dealing With Difficult Clients

If there’s one thing that everyone working in the social care field can agree on, it is that clients differ from one another in temperament, expectations and attitudes. Some clients are easy to manage and generally just want to get on with things. Others? Well, let’s just say they are not so easy. Of course there are many others within the spectrum, but the we all know that the difficult clients are the ones that can be a real drain on time, emotions and resources. Yet it is our duty as caregivers to treat difficult clients with the same respect, love and care that we extend to every other client. Doing so may require a bit more from us, and in this month’s newsletter, I want to provide some helpful guidance for dealing with difficult clients.  

1. Build trust ​Lack of trust is one of the main reasons clients can be difficult, and this can be particularly true when the care giver is new, or where they a previous care giver has violated their trust in one way or the other. It is therefore important that when dealing with a difficult client, you do your best to build trust and learn the habits and preferences of your clients. You should assess your client’s situation and learn as much about them as you can (without being intrusive or violating their privacy). You can interview their friends and family members with their permission to know about your client’s likes, hobbies, dislikes, interests, and personality. That way, you can tailor your care to meet their needs and show that you really do care.

2. Understand why There’s a reason for every behaviour. Your best bet is to understand why your client behaves in certain ways so you can avoid those triggers. Sometimes, your client might just need some rest, sometimes they want to be alone, sometimes their difficult behaviour is a cry for attention or for someone to talk to. Other times though, truth be told, some clients are just difficult, period. Regardless of the reason behind your client’s behaviour, it is important that you avoid anything that could trigger them into doing things that make your life and caring for them difficult. If you are able to place a finger on what sets them off, then half the problem is solved. The other half is working out how to avoid such things, and in the event they cannot be avoided, then devising a solution and knowing how best to care for them.

3. Don’t generalize Some clients misinterpret the simplest things said or view the most innocuous action with suspicion. Again, this could be as a result of past experiences. So when dealing with a difficult client, you should always bear in mind that your innocent words or actions could trigger negative responses at any time, and if care is not taken, your relationship with the client can quickly spiral downwards. To avoid such a situation, do not assume that all your actions are understood the way you, or everyone else, understands them. Always remember that your client is an individual, with his or her own personality. Never, generalise. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their own view point rather than a general point of view. Look instead for ways to calm things down and then work from there to come up with a solution that addresses their grievance (perceived or real).

Help your direct care workers  and providers understand the clients they are working with so that issues can be avoided if possible. The more information you can share, the better the match between care worker and client.


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