As a therapist, you work to improve people’s lives in a variety of ways, such as getting them back to work and helping them rehabilitate sports injuries. Bringing people closer to being able to live the lives they want can be a rewarding pursuit, but it comes with challenges. One of the less pleasant aspects of a healthcare provider’s job can be dealing with family members of patients. Although many family members are often well-meaning and helpful, others may be demanding because they are distrustful, anxious, or simply unaware of how they are portraying themselves.
You are still responsible for providing high-quality patient care, but demanding family members can be hard to ignore. The following are some strategies to consider the next time you find yourself facing a demanding family member.
Listen to the Family Member
Family members often begin to seem demanding because they are afraid.
- A mother may worry that her child will never overcome a speech impediment and will chronically be subjected to teasing.
- A husband may worry that his wife’s on-the-job injury will never heal and the family will face financial troubles.
- A son might worry that his elderly father will not recover from a fall and will need to give up a great deal of independence.
- Listen to family members. Let them know that you are listening with responses such as, “I can see why you would be worried.” Family members are often well-meaning but anxious, and they may become less hostile after they are able to express their concerns to a caring ear.
Discuss the Treatment Plan
Family members may be overly demanding if they expect unrealistically fast results, particularly during situations such as travel therapy, when families may expect you to solve the problem the second you arrive on the scene. Therapy is often a long-term process, and discussing a realistic timetable for progress with the patient and his or her family can reduce demands to explain your every treatment decision.
Explain Delays in Appointments
Nobody likes to wait, but you can often make the wait less burdensome and reduce the complaints of family members. Inform your patient and accompanying family members as soon as you know that you are running late and will need to push back your patient’s appointment. Do your best to give an accurate estimate of how many minutes late you are running, and explain that you are running late because you are giving another patient the same thorough, unhurried care that your next patient can expect. Simply knowing what to expect and understanding the reason for the delay can be enough to make family members more patient with you.
Refuse to Be Bullied
After your own physical and mental health, good patient care is your top priority. Do not let demanding family members interfere with your job. If you need to focus on the patient, let the family member know that you can talk to them later, after the session is over. Ask that they make a list of questions, and let them know exactly how much time you are able to set aside to talk to them. While it is unfortunate that you ever have to deal with demanding family members, keep in mind that they are few and far between, and most of your time can be spent helping the patients you love.