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Toni Talks about PT Today

Putting Up With Bad Behavior

Published September 4, 2012 5:36 PM by Toni Patt

Today was one of those days. There is a full moon. Healthcare workers often joke about the effects of the full moon on their patients. I believe there is something to that, which means my patients gets more of a workout than usual. I am used to brain-injured people being difficult, making inappropriate statements and being confused. I shrug it off because they can't help it. I have trouble shrugging off patients who are rude and downright mean without a brain injury.

Right now I have three older ladies who act as though we're servants and not caregivers. Everything is a demand. Nothing makes them happy; the room temperature, the time of day for therapy, the other patients in the room, the food, the RW I grab for them to walk with. I understand no one is happy to be in an SNF. But it doesn't give them permission to spew meanness.

There is an expectation that caregivers will smile and accept whatever behavior patients present. I generally do shrug stuff off. Most of the time there is an underlying problem. Once it's solved the behavior goes away. Other times pain is the cause or lack of sleep. No matter, I am expected to smile and tell them it is okay. Otherwise I'm not considered a good employee.

Sometimes I'd like to tell those people they're not being good patients. More than once I have told them I'm sorry about their situation but working with therapy is the quickest way to go home. Other times I've encouraged them to make the best of it because complaining will only make it worse. Several times I've wanted to tell my patient to look around the room at all the other patients who are in worse shape and will never go back to their previous lives. Maybe things aren't as bad as they seem.

Snapping back at them would only make the situation worse, but proper behavior is a two-way street. Someone needs to nicely explain to them that bad behavior isn't acceptable and clarify the difference between rudeness and making a request. "Please" and "thank you" go a long way. The blanket expectation that caregivers tolerate bad behavior needs to go away.

I've mastered keeping a blank face and saying nothing. I can silently count to 10 with the best of them. I've found that rephrasing the demand as a polite question asking what they wanted often prevents further outbursts.


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