I recently had my first experience with a distressed parent regarding the environment in which support was being provided to their dependent.
Parents and families are understandably often focused on the individual needs of their dependent. This can sometimes lead to situations that can be difficult to navigate and can cause anxiety and distress amongst support workers, participants and their families. I had an interaction with a parent which I found confronting and felt threatened by. In essence, I was being told that other parents were going to remove their loved ones from our support program because of another participant.
I didn’t need to worry about their comments because I knew for a fact the words couldn’t be farther from the truth. What I did worry about was how to navigate the situation in a way that wouldn’t affect the person-cantered-approach and comfort level of support their loved one was receiving from our service, but also firmly establishing that their approach to discussing the matter was not an effective way of achieving their desired outcome.
In the past, some may have called me a reactive and pointed individual when presented with conflict. But as always when it comes to caring for someone, taking a step back to focus on the other person is an integral part of successful support.
I asked myself three questions:
- What is the reason/motivation behind the parent’s words?
- How do I respond to the parent in a way that benefits the non-face-to-face support of the participant?
- What is the resolution?
The answer to the first question seemed pretty simple – the parent did not want their child receiving support at the same time as with the other participant. The parent’s child was exhibiting clear signs of emotional discomfort and concerning behaviours when returning home on the same days they were in the presence of the other individual. For whatever reason instead of being upfront with this information, it was relayed to me as “other parents are going to pull out from your program.”
Once I got to the root of the problem, I had to navigate my response as I recognized it would indirectly provide a positive or negative support experience for the child – I had to lead by example.
*Side note* There is always irony in situations like these. A few of the other parents expressed their concerns about their children’s emotional responses when this same parent requested support for their child – and the parent was well aware of those concerns. It’s important to find humour in these situations when you can.
Regardless of ability, a sudden change to a person’s routine can instantly cause anxiety and stress, but especially so when involving persons with intellectual disabilities. Transitioning care is important and I needed to make it clear that while we would work towards a resolution that catered to and benefited everyone – I had to request their patience in taking the steps necessary to implement the changes in order to help prevent any potential escalations.
There were many conversations and a few changes that lead to resolving this situation, but luckily that did not involve terminating anyone’s care. To be honest, in this scenario familiarising the participants with a different routine was easier than communicating with the parents.
Whatever the parent’s reason was for initiating this discussion the way they did, the bottom line was I needed to support their emotional and mental well-being for the concern of their child. It was my responsibility to care for the parent by showing how I would navigate the care of their loved one. This proved to be a valuable lesson in dealing with parents and representatives in the disability community.
In closing, there is good news and bad news – the bad news, you can’t bill double for parental support. The good news, you’re making a difference in their lives. That’s something to be proud of.
– Tyler Murphy, Director of Care