Negative Emotions

By Barbara Karnes, RN

May 26, 2015


Author Barbara Karnes, RN

QUESTION: How do you handle feelings of anger, fear that is being projected onto the caregiver by the patient?

It is hard to be caring for someone (which is generally a challenging task at its best) and have that person be rude, demanding, irritable, or just down right nasty to you.

My first recommendation is to not take it personally. The behavior has nothing to do with you. As you stated above “feelings of anger and fear” are being projected onto you, the caregiver. This is how, unpleasant as it is, the patient is dealing with their fears of debilitation, needing a caregiver and most of all the fear of illness and dying.

We tend to want to fix other’s challenges so we often want to discuss why the anger is not appropriate and or defend ourselves. I think that just tends to inflame the situation. I’m for giving no response as in no response is a good response. Not engaging tends to diffuse a situation. If there is nothing to rail against we tend to stop.

Even though you know intellectually the negativity is not about you I think setting boundaries is necessary. I had a gentleman who kept threatening me with his cane and loud, verbally abusive words. I told him to be more selective with the wording of his displeasure and that I would not stay if he continued to threaten to hit me with his cane.

As a person enters the dying process their personality doesn’t change. It intensifies. A grouchy, irritable person can become downright mean. An easy going person becomes even more laid back and quiet. Look at the person’s personality. Has it intensified or actually changed. If there is a personality change consider the possibility of medical issues and drug reactions before deciding the person is just being unpleasant.

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