Dealing with complaints
Is dad being more moody than normal? Is he complaining about things that never used to bother him before? Is mom suddenly unhappy, arguing at the drop of a hat or dissatisfied with how things are being handled?
Home Instead Senior Care encourages you to listen to these complaints and ignore the temptation to pass them off as just a case of "The Grumpies." Many factors such as stress, grief, ailing health, financial difficulties or being mistreated by someone, can weigh on your parent and cause distress.
So what might you do about complaints about a healthcare or caregiving situation? First, listen carefully and let your parent know you'd like to help. Ask mom or dad to explain the specific complaint. Remember to be patient when asking for details. Depending on the situation, he or she might be upset at not feeling like they can handle it themselves and fear the loss of independence they once had. If you're having trouble talking about complaints, Home Instead created a 40-70 Rule® website specifically focused on starting sensitive conversations.
Overwhelmed by it all
Often a senior's complaints are related to being overwhelmed by having too many doctors, medical appointments, caregivers and prescriptions to take. Remembering to follow all of their different instructions or making sure they all know what each other is prescribing might be more than your parent can manage. As a result he or she may become upset and start complaining about any one or all of them.
Through years of service, Home Instead Senior Care's caregivers have found these simple tactics can help alleviate these types of complaints:
- Volunteer to offer help and support.
- Before your parent goes for a medical visit help them prepare a list of questions and make sure have their medical history ready and available to share.
- If they have hearing or vision issues, encourage them to sit face to face with their provider or suggest you or another family member or friend go along to act as a second set of ears.
- In the end, make sure they know it's okay to ask all the questions they want and get any instructions in writing.
Something's not right
In some cases, your parent's complaints might be more specific and disturbing such as items or money going missing, having basic assistive needs such as toileting or meal delivery ignored, or being threatened either verbally or physically by a caregiver. Hearing such allegations is certainly disturbing and you should immediately address them.
The first thing to do is remain calm and walk your parent through the situation. Gently ask questions about what led up to and what happened after the incident. Ask if this is the first time it happened or if it's an ongoing issue. Ask if they tried to address their caregiver directly about the complaint and what reaction they got. If they didn't do anything, assure them that was OK. And, now by telling you, they are doing the right thing to address the situation.
Finding a solution
Once you have the facts, you should contact the supervisor of the caregiver(s) in question. Make sure the solution, whether it's a conversation with the caregiver, a change in caregivers or a move to a totally different agency, is agreed upon by your parent. Unless he or she is not competent to make healthcare decisions for themselves (such as with dementia or Alzheimer's), your parent should be involved in the solution. In the rare case of physical harm or theft you should also contact the local police department and the agency governing licensure of home care individuals and companies, and lodge a formal complaint.
Dealing with and talking about crucial issues with your parents (especially about their complaints) is never easy and it means taking time and being patient, respectful and not patronizing. It's important that you go into all of these conversations with an open mind. Also be sure to pay attention to your senior loved one's ideas and fears they may express indirectly. Generally older people understand far more than they express so it's important to understand their thoughts and listen for deeper meaning.
At Home Instead we know that, by addressing your senior loved ones' complaints, you are helping to ensure their continued independence, safety and quality of life.
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