When people are difficult ask what really matters to them

Last week I spoke at the Integrated Care Conference at UCD. Besides being a time when Ireland could showcase the good work done on integrated care, it gave me the opportunity to think about and explore the way we interact with families and the people for whom we care, writes Dr. Peter Lachman.

Dr. Peter Lachman
Dr. Peter Lachman

In my talk, I discussed the so-called “difficult” parents with whom I spent a lot of my career. Parents are not “difficult,” although often they are perceived as such. Usually they are advocates for their children and want to ensure their child receives the best care possible.

This resonated with many parents in the audience who all had a story to tell as to why they had been perceived to be “difficult”.

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Most managers and clinicians have experienced this phenomenon at all levels with families who are trying to ensure good care. Sometimes it is because we have created expectations that cannot be fulfilled, other times it is related to the way we deliver care.

If one is person centred from the start, humble in one’s approach and open and transparent as to what can be achieved, then one can usually avoid the conflict that arises.

Often the failure to integrate care across social care, education, work and health results in the obstacles that create the complaints that we may receive. Person centred care, i.e. “what matters” to patients and staff, is now the mantra in healthcare. To achieve the what matters situation, we need to listen and understand that healthcare is stressful and difficult for all.

Most managers and clinicians have experienced this phenomenon at all levels with families who are trying to ensure good care.

The way forward is to examine how we organise our services and always ask whether we have met the real needs of patients and their families.

This is not an easy task when the resources are limited and the demand is high. Yet I believe that we if address what matters to patients, families and to staff, then we will be able to manage and deliver healthcare better than now.