Teri Weiman, SSD-AD

It must be my optimistic nature that makes me think, “Why use a pair of boxing gloves when a feather will do?”

Those of you in social services know what I mean when I say, “Why go for the jugular?”  You are just trying to help (schedule/resolve/plan/assess), right?  (Activity Directors: We’re just helping the people having fun, right?) 

Though they are unaware, when a resident is assessed for our facility, so is the family.  As soon as we get someone coming through our lobby inquiring about bed availability, asking for a tour or requesting an admission package, we are observing them.

“Will this family be supportive?”  “Will they be accessible and available?”  “Will they be aggressive?” “What are the family dynamics?”  “Do they appear truthful?” 

I have come to learn that families want to appear cooperative and loving to the administrator and admissions staff.  Not all details will surface upon initial interview.  How often have you discovered that a resident has sexually inappropriate behavior that the wife “forgot” to disclose?  Or that Mom has had a lifelong pattern of paranoia and invalidated accusations toward Dad?  Perhaps Auntie’s nighttime screams didn’t seem important?  

There are times when relatives approach me with a “survival of the fittest” combative attitude.  I have learned to stand with my feet planted firmly, let them blow off steam, control my facial expressions (many times, I can be read like a book), slow down, do not react and BREATHE. This hostility is not personal.  I repeat: BREATHE.

One such case we faced as an interdisciplinary team was when Super Son Sam stomped into his father’s admission meeting with a stack of papers printed from the Internet, sections highlighted for emphasis.

His first question was, “How much time do I get?“  In hand, he carried “proof” that a high fat diet would benefit his father. Therefore, he wanted crisp bacon served every morning.  He had written “evidence” that Vitamin D supplements are a farce. Therefore, he demanded that his father be supervised on the patio at least a half hour each day in the sun. That was just the beginning of his belittling statements toward the people in attendance.  

“If I appear to be abrasive like sand paper, if I am in your face, if I get all over you, I will not apologize,” he said firmly as he gave eye contact to each team member.  “I want what is best for my dad and I will fight you for it.” 

As several of us sat expressionless at this man’s unwarranted rage (I was struggling not to hang my jaw wide open), our MDS coordinator kindly replied, “Please remember, we’re on the same team.”

Yes, we are! We are a team with the common goal of taking care of precious residents. We’re a team that requires every person to do his or her part (dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, activities, laundry, nursing, therapy, admissions & discharge). We work with the families with the common goal of optimum care for their relative.

The next time that you receive unwarranted, misdirected anger fired in your direction, take a moment to BREATHE.  Think to yourself, “This is not personal … and, may I please have my jugular back?” 

Teri Weiman, SSD-AD, is a social services designee and activity directory in a central California skilled nursing facility. She oversees 80+ volunteers, supervises 11 activity aides and has two amazing assistants. She has learned that all long-term care residents have valuable attributes and can teach a lot about life … which she will share here. An early riser and eternal optimist, she lives by the saying Carpe Diem.