When relatives become angry and aggressive...

As government departments look to trim excess from budgets, many support professionals whether in direct care, social work or care management fields are being challenged to ‘do more, with less’.  This is evident in the current government initiative to review 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants. Initial figures show that 37% of the 141,000 claimants who have undergone a work capability assessment, have been found fit for work and refused further benefit payments.

This scenario and others like it are playing out across multiple areas of health and social care provision. The resulting impact is keenly felt by those professionals providing front line support and in some cases being the agent of bad news regarding the ongoing access or provision of services.  The potential for verbal response aggression and even occasional physical aggression, is one that we can recognise and often empathise with, if not condone. This empathic approach is a good first step to defusing the aggression.  Additional considerations are common sense based and include:

  • Trying to remain non-judgmental
  • Providing focused attention
  • Using silence for reflection purposes
  • Focusing on feelings as well as facts
  • Check understanding

The above being said, it is not always possible to defuse situations when people become angry and aggressive.  Should an individual, or their relatives enter the crisis cycle and escalate through the verbal aggression phases, then the following should be considered.

  • Allow verbal venting when helpful
  • Avoid trying to talk over
  • Try to avoid threatening body language or positions
  • If threats are made, take seriously,  document and seek help
  • Touching individuals may be seen as aggressive or inappropriate and should be avoided
  • Following the incident, record and report

The above points represent some common sense approaches to this challenging situation but should not be seen as an alternative to organisational policies and procedures.  Staff should be aware of exactly how they are expected to respond in situations such as the one described.  

Posted by Maybo on April 11, 2012



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