Everybody has bad days. When it all seems to be going wrong and everything’s out of sync and frustration levels start to simmer very close to the surface. Most of us can empathise with feeling a little hot under the collar and that’s no different for the residents we look after. Many of us have experienced looking after a resident that has been feeling angry.
These situations, while hopefully not common, do occur and they can be really challenging. Here are some ways that professionals, involved in health care, have approached managing agitated persons for the best outcomes.
It can be helpful to notice and plan for someone’s mood when they are still in the beginning stages of their anger. Look for tense jaws, clenched hands, a less talkative person, a raised voice or tense posture. If you start to notice these things you can give yourself time to make a plan for how you are going to approach the situation.
Asking questions like, “How are you feeling now?”, “Why are you feeling this way?” or “How do you feel about it?” may allow the patient to ‘vent’ and open up about why they are feeling frustrated. Asking open ended questions, without judgment or sway, can help a patient tap into what they are feeling and what may be causing it. It also allows them the opportunity to feel heard and understood.
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an be so tricky. Yet one of the ways to diffuse anger is to meet it with the opposite. If you work at remaining calm, you will be enabled to think rationally and deal with the situation. Through breathing deeply you may be able to keep your heart rate down which can encourage the body to be calm.
Using a person’s name can help them to feel focussed on and personally connected. If they have opened up about what is making them angry it can help to empathise. Would you feel frustrated in their situation? Responding with empathetic statements can help your resident feel validated and understood. “I understand how upsetting this must be for you, Margaret” and “John, I’m hearing what you’re saying, that sounds difficult to deal with.”
When people get angry, they can sometimes become irrational and with that irrationality can come some very hurtful things. If a resident has lost control know that you are not a bad person, know that you are just doing your job and imagine the hurtful words bouncing off you. When a resident is having a significant episode of anger, sometimes it is best to be quiet and wait for them to finish. Of course it isn’t unpleasant but sometimes trying to interject or pacify can only fan the flame of their anger. After they have finished you can, in a calm and level voice, say, “I hear that you are angry right now, would you like me to come back?” Or “Can you tell me what you need?” or “Do you have some suggestions on ways to solve this problem?
If a resident has been consistently angry for some time seek out your colleagues’ and boss’ opinion, advice and strategies. It is always easier to deal with difficult situations and challenges with the help of a support network. There may be more experienced staff in your workplace that have specific bits of advice for your particular situation. Asking your boss or suggesting to your colleagues that a training session on anger management could be a way for the whole staff team to learn and develop. Additionally if anyone is really struggling with a patient it is important to be open about that difficulty so that others can have the opportunity to support and brainstorm resolution strategies.
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