How do you handle difficult family members?

  1. 1
    How do you handle difficult family members, such as ones with multiple complaints... needy... never satisfied... ?

    I have a situation where a family member is accusing the MDs of attempting to "off" her loved one (palliative care involved, but she is resistant/in denial). She kept me in the room 45 minutes complaining about multiple MDs, different nursing homes, etc.
    lindarn likes this.
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  3. 14 Comments so far...

  4. 3
    Unfortunately, I haven't found the universal answer to dealing with difficult or demanding family members and visitors. To be perfectly honest, they remain one of my biggest challenges in the workplace. The only thing I know is that there's no "one size fits all" approach to handling them. In addition, management seems to back them up, regardless of how unreasonable or abusive their behavior is toward the staff.

    I prefer to work night shift so I can avoid as many of these difficult families as possible.
    calliesue, sammy75, and lindarn like this.
  5. 9
    Quote from TheCommuter
    Unfortunately, I haven't found the universal answer to dealing with difficult or demanding family members and visitors. To be perfectly honest, they remain one of my biggest challenges in the workplace. The only thing I know is that there's no "one size fits all" approach to handling them. In addition, management seems to back them up, regardless of how unreasonable or abusive their behavior is toward the staff.

    I prefer to work night shift so I can avoid as many of these difficult families as possible.
    When is the nursing profession going to hold administration accountable for adding to the stress of bedside nursing? We do not need a clueless administration backing abusive family members and patients. No other profession puts up with "customer abuse" like nursing.

    If you behaved the way families and patients do when they are patients in a hospital, in the local Walmart, or shopping mall, you would have security and the local police department called to drag your sorry @$$ out of there to the local jail cell. No doubt in my mind.

    So again I ask, when are nurses going to hold administration accountable for their lack of support with these imbeciles? Put together a staff meeting, and address this with the nurse manager, and inform them in no uncertain terms, that when patients act up you are calling security and the police and having them arrested. And you will follow up by pressing charges. There is no reason for anyone to have to put up with this nonsense. You can always escort them to the office of the hospital CEO, and let the big wigs sit and listen to the complaints for a change. Especially since they are the ones with the power to change the poor staffing, etc, that seems leads to most of the complaints. JMHO and my NY $0.02.

    Lindarn, Rn, BSN, CCRN
    Spokane, Washington
    dogfairy, Poi Dog, GadgetRN71, and 6 others like this.
  6. 3
    Im all for George Carlins "Idiot" dart gun method!
    lindarn, calliesue, and BEDPAN76 like this.
  7. 2
    Kill 'em with kindness!!!
    calliesue and Scrubby like this.
  8. 4
    i've been known to give them the name and pager number of the nurse manager to let her deal with them. when they instituted 24/7 visiting at my old facility, the manager graciously announced at a staff meeting "and if you have problems, refer them to me." i don't think she expected anyone to take her up on it, but i did several times. i'll never forget the sight of one particularly distraut wife of a patient flinging herself into my nurse manager's arms, whereupon they both toppled over onto the floor. shortly after that, visiting hours were de-liberalized a bit and we utilized security a bit more liberally when we had problems.
    vivere, NeoNurseTX, calliesue, and 1 other like this.
  9. 2
    I try at least to arm myself with enough knowledge about their case, their problems, what the treatments plans are, etc, so that I can discuss with them the plans. If I go in "blind," I ask them for time to review their case, explain to them that I just came on, dont' know their case, etc. MOST people will understand and give me time to get caught up. Then I can investigate, find out what's wrong, try to help, etc. With most reasonable people, it works.

    I also don't get too friendly lately, EVER. I am professional, friendly, but not a "friend" to families. I am their nurse, try to be their advocate, but I'm not their friend. I have been burned from being too friendly with those who simply turned on me in a flash when things started not to go well.

    With some who get unreasonable, I will try to politely reason, try to politely provide explanations, and often I can turn them around and get them to calm down. I will try to listen to them as much as possible, see their point of view, etc.

    The ones that TOTALLY get me are the ones who complain about the food. I mean -- it's SO childish to me to complain about a hot meal -- who CARES if it's not restaurant quality -- most of it is edible, at least -- and if they are well enough to complain about it, IMO, they aren't even sick enough to be in the hospital in the first place. Just my opinon -- just grinds my gears to no end.
    calliesue and lindarn like this.
  10. 2
    Quote from ruby vee
    i've been known to give them the name and pager number of the nurse manager to let her deal with them. when they instituted 24/7 visiting at my old facility, the manager graciously announced at a staff meeting "and if you have problems, refer them to me." i don't think she expected anyone to take her up on it, but i did several times. i'll never forget the sight of one particularly distraut wife of a patient flinging herself into my nurse manager's arms, whereupon they both toppled over onto the floor. shortly after that, visiting hours were de-liberalized a bit and we utilized security a bit more liberally when we had problems.
    roflmbo

    why did she fling herself?
    dogfairy and calliesue like this.
  11. 2
    I was a high school teacher for 20+ years, and family/parent issues are very similar to what you are describing. The teacher takes all the grief, because s/he is on the 'front line', meaning easiest access. There were times when I would suggest that they speak to an administrator, and typically, when it was a ridiculous complaint, parents would decline. Some people just live to gripe. The nurse too is the 'front line', also with easiest access. Families are not so willing to create a fuss with a physician or hospital administrator, are they? In my mind, if a complaint was really legitimate, they wouldn't be so hesitant to discuss it with the docs or administrators. Some families have a very cockeyed idea of what health care is supposed to provide. But these people are not going to go away, and they are not dealt with by administrators because it's about the money, and it's about the lawyers. Hope I'm not offending anyone.
    The way for me to deal with unreasonable people is to focus on the patient, and not give much credence to difficult family members. Easier said than done, eh?
    lindarn and TheCommuter like this.
  12. 1
    I also work night shift. Works like a charm . ..unless they insist on spending the night and being a PITA throught the night as well. Most are fine, but there are some who also insist on being taken care of through the night, brought pillows, blankets, etc.

    One man got on my nerves so much -- was asking for us to feed him as he also was a diabetic -- basically wanting to be treated for "his" condition also. Would ask for sodas and crackers all night long .. .yikes -- get OUTTA HERE!!!!

    Had one lady this past week who chewed me out because her sister "lost" her glasses. Just b***tched me up and down. It was too funny when the glasses were found in her nutty sister's bag after all. I REALLY wanted to go in there and say, "Well, thanks for balling me out over it, lady!"

    -- but I didn't. :icon_roll
    lindarn likes this.


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