How do you deal with angry family members in the Nursing Home setting?

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    Say you are the supervisor and have a family member come to you, obviously angry, and state that her mother hasn't had her shower today and that she pays good money for her to get the care she was promised her mother would get. Family member was told that her mother's CNA wasn't there and nobody seemed to know who was responsible for seeing her mother got her shower. What would you say to the family member? How would you resolve the issue?
    This question was asked of me in an interview today and apparently I didn't give the right answer I will tell you all how I answered later, but would first like to see how others would have answered so I can see if I was wrong. Thanks!
    Joe V likes this.
  2. 16 Comments so far...

  3. 3
    I would assure the family member that I would get to the bottom of the situation, apologize that the resident's shower was not given, and assure the family member that the shower would be given before the day is over even if I had to do it myself.
    Then I would find out who told her that the CNA wasn't there, find out where the CNA was and or is, and instruct the CNA to give the shower.
    Sad to say, this seems to be an all to common problem in LTC. It is important that the family member is aware that the situation is unacceptable and that the shower will be given ASAP.
  4. 0
    Quote from SarahLeeRN
    I would assure the family member that I would get to the bottom of the situation, apologize that the resident's shower was not given, and assure the family member that the shower would be given before the day is over even if I had to do it myself.
    Then I would find out who told her that the CNA wasn't there, find out where the CNA was and or is, and instruct the CNA to give the shower.
    Sad to say, this seems to be an all to common problem in LTC. It is important that the family member is aware that the situation is unacceptable and that the shower will be given ASAP.
    Thank you SarahLee. That's somewhat along the same lines as to what I said, but a little different if that makes sense. The interviewer told me my answer was wrong and "concerned" her. Not sure what she wanted me to say
  5. 0
    Claiming responsibility and not blaming your co-workers seems like the best route to me. The other thing I notice in the question is that 'someone' told the family member that they didn't know where the CNA was, nor did they know who was responsible for the shower. That person also needs to be re-taught to bring any situations to the supe. They should just say, "let me find out for you" and go right to their immediate supe.

    In answer to the interviewer question, (which of course is 20/20 here and we are not nervous at an interview with time to think and type...)

    "I see how upset you are, but don't worry we are still working on showers and I will personally make sure mom gets her shower before the end of this shift". Maybe the interviewer didn't want the CNA's thrown under the bus to the family member? I guess I'd make it seem like it was happening, it just hadn't happened YET. Also, apologizing is sometimes frowned upon as it implies blame to the facility, the workers etc. I have found, and been embarressed many times that speaking too soon can get me in a LOT of trouble. You have to weight every word in this tricky world. Sad to say. I'd love to know what exactly you said that had the interviewer 'concerned'?
    Weird. Hope you got the job! )
  6. 0
    Quote from NamasteNurse
    Claiming responsibility and not blaming your co-workers seems like the best route to me. The other thing I notice in the question is that 'someone' told the family member that they didn't know where the CNA was, nor did they know who was responsible for the shower. That person also needs to be re-taught to bring any situations to the supe. They should just say, "let me find out for you" and go right to their immediate supe.

    In answer to the interviewer question, (which of course is 20/20 here and we are not nervous at an interview with time to think and type...)

    "I see how upset you are, but don't worry we are still working on showers and I will personally make sure mom gets her shower before the end of this shift". Maybe the interviewer didn't want the CNA's thrown under the bus to the family member? I guess I'd make it seem like it was happening, it just hadn't happened YET. Also, apologizing is sometimes frowned upon as it implies blame to the facility, the workers etc. I have found, and been embarressed many times that speaking too soon can get me in a LOT of trouble. You have to weight every word in this tricky world. Sad to say. I'd love to know what exactly you said that had the interviewer 'concerned'?
    Weird. Hope you got the job! )
    Exactly. I left out the words "I'm sorry" since to me that would be an implication that the staff was indeed guilty of not giving mom a shower before all the facts were presented. I wanted to be careful not to imply that the staff deliberately overlooked the shower.

    Here's what I said:

    "I understand your concern Mrs. Jones, and can assure you that I will personally look into the matter and ensure that your mom gets her shower today. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
    The interviewer said "No. That is wrong." I had no idea what she wanted me to say! As a Supervisor that is how I would've handled the situation. I would've calmed the daughter and let her know it would be handled and would have addressed any other concerns she may have had.

    She said she knows I was nervous and likes me, and feels I have the skills, so she is going to give me another chance at a second interview next week.
  7. 0
    There is a book out there which describes the benefit of saying I'm sorry especially when it comes to an angry family member.I think I'd say "I understand why you're upset. Let me see if I can find out what happened. In the meantime I'll make sure your mom gets her shower".
  8. 1
    Quote from CapeCodMermaid
    There is a book out there which describes the benefit of saying I'm sorry especially when it comes to an angry family member.I think I'd say "I understand why you're upset. Let me see if I can find out what happened. In the meantime I'll make sure your mom gets her shower".
    That sounds good. I have been going over the whole scenario in my head and realized I probably should have added what you said about finding out about what happened. Not sure that would have been good enough either. Maybe I should practice on my husband LOL!!

    So how does this sound? Assuming, according to the interviewer, I am called back for a second interview:

    "Hi Mrs. Jones. What can I help you with today?" (Mrs. Jones tells me the problem)
    "I understand your concern Mrs. Jones so let's start from the beginning. Tell me what happened when you came onto the unit." (Mrs. Jones tells me why she believes her mother didn't get her shower and what she was told)
    "Yes Mrs. Jones. I understand. I value your input as a family member and appreciate your concern. I can assure you that I will personally look into the matter so that we can work as a team in resolving the issue so that it doesn't happen again. I will also ensure that your mother gets her shower today. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

    After Mrs. Jones was satisfied, I would then speak with the Memory Care Aides in private and do a mini in-service with them to ensure they understand how to handle the situation in the future.
    Last edit by LTCNS on Sep 27, '12
    echoRNC711 likes this.
  9. 2
    This is actually a very interesting topic. I have often been in situations like the interviewer asked you. I have often wondered how much to apologize and how much to promise in these sort of situations. Sadly, I usually cannot promise that this will not happen again even though I wish I could. (This is just my experience, probably not the best answer to an interview question!)
    What I have seen is that the family is concerned, justifiably, and wants to know what will happen. As was already posted "Claiming responsibility and not blaming your co-workers seems like the best route to me"....often seems like the best thing to do.
    I am not quite sure why the interviewer felt that your answer was wrong...
    I do believe based on experience that the family needs to hear the words "I'm sorry-and this is unacceptable." Because it is unacceptable that a shower was not given.... that can be considered neglect...which is a whole other can of worms. And, in my experience, if I discover that I have to constantly be apologizing for unacceptable behavior that simply is not being resolved after much, much, much intervention....the facility is possibly a lemon. Dare I say it....but there is only so much one person can do in the area of family complaints.
    But apologizing and getting to the bottom of the matter seems to be the first step...and don't forget follow up with the family.
    VivaLasViejas and LTCNS like this.
  10. 1
    Excellent points SarahLee. On the one hand if you say "I'm sorry. This is unacceptable and I will get to the bottom of it and make sure you mom gets her shower before the end of the shift," it seems like the facility is admitting neglect when there may have just been a mix-up, lack of communication, etc...On the other hand, if you don't apologize for the lack of care, oversight, whatever...and empathize without saying I'm sorry, the family member may look at it as if you don't care and are just blowing smoke.

    So it seems to me there really *is* no right answer. Different managers will handle the situation differently, but with a common goal in mind...To make sure mom gets her shower as scheduled.
    SarahLeeRN likes this.
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    I can't help but wonder why you asked "is there anything else I can help you with?"

    This statement can come off as condescending if you're not careful, its almost like getting blown off. Also, if the client's family had other concerns they would have raised them without you asking.
    2bFNP4ME2015 and Kandy83 like this.


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