How to get back to the unseen person in care environments

Sep 8, 2021 | Advance Care Planning, Australian Aged Care, Carers Advice

In care environments, we all change. We defer to the doctor. We become more polite than we would at home. This brings with it formality. It may also bring more shyness, introspection and a quieter personality. We play a role to what people expect in all kinds of intersections. And being in a care facility or hospital is no different.

The parent you know or the child you adore who usually commands the room, regales people with tales and is insatiably curious may change how they behave. A change in venue and the perception of where the power lies comes together to potentially dampen the spirit of that individual. Or at least make it less authentic and less relaxed than it should be.

The challenge becomes being able to communicate the person they once were to the people who are providing support and treatment. Considering the importance of a person’s personality, likes, dislikes and wishes are in customising treatment, it’s essential to get a sense of a person quickly.

Here’s how you can help carers encourage a person to come back out of their shell in care environments to aid in providing custom treatment

Recognise there are age and cultural differences

With every generation, we have a different relationship with authority, the medical establishment and what it means to be a polite person in public. How these are determined is not only influenced by age. You can find gender, cultural identity and religious beliefs also play a role.

Understanding the impacts of age, gender and belief systems is paramount to getting through to a person. And it can save a life.

For example- you don’t want someone in your family or in your care to be polite over truthful when describing symptoms or bodily impacts. It’s better to have someone explain the pain they are in over not wanting to make a fuss. Or to talk in frank terms about toileting changes or other topics that people may feel shy about disclosing.

Understanding how a person thinks and who they are when greeted with sensitive information, strangers or people in authority can have a dramatic impact on the quality of information you receive.

That’s why it’s really important to understand these sensitives ahead of time. That way, you can meet them with appropriate resources in care environments.

By using the ExSitu Hierarchy of Values, you get a sense of a person in their own words and what matters to them. They answer questions about privacy and that capture the essence of values.

This information may then inform whether you need to only have female staff attend a woman reticent to talk about bodily functions with male doctors. Or it may help you understand some people will want to avoid discussing some side effects of treatment or illness in front of their children. Or can have strong reactions to particular treatment suggestions.

It helps reduce isolation and fear

Knowing that Joe is a keen Socceroos fan who loves a good beer, and a joke may not seem like much. But it can make it much easier to have a chat to him and build rapport quickly in a hospital environment.

If he seems depressed and hopeless after hearing his diagnosis is terminal and you are unsure how to help him come to terms with things, you can try sending the priest. But it probably won’t go down well for someone who is incredibly anti-religious.

Letting his daughter bring in the family Labrador however for a visit might be a way for him to connect with someone or something. And that connection can may very well make a world of difference if he’s shutdown while processing in care environments.

People often feel alone when they receive difficult news. Indeed, their world feels as though it shifts while other people’s stay relatively normal. Arming yourself with a way to reach a person in crisis, especially if they are not responding to usual methods, can save a lot of time, energy and heartache for all concerned.

Knowing what helps someone feel loved and less alone is part of what the Hierarchy of Values can offer. You can understand the triggers and levers you have with a person and help them better manage their mood and news.

It gives you the person at their best

Often when we see someone enter care environments, they are at their lowest. Their body, mind and even hope may be ailing or even failing. This is not the full and complete picture of the person in front of you.

You are receiving a picture of a person who essentially may be at their worst. Nobody enjoys being unwell, physically, mentally or otherwise. You get the crankier, crabbier, less communicative or even more demanding version of a person.

They may be far more withdrawn as they think deeply about their life and what is happening. It may be difficult to reach them for essential information.

And you may not be able to reach them at all. Leading to vital and granular questions alike remaining unanswered.

If you document a person’s wishes, feelings and values with Exsitu, you have the Hierarchy of Values to tell you what they value. This can inform everything from how to make them comfortable emotionally through to how to meet their needs physically.

You also capture a sense of a person outside the worst you are seeing. In Exsitu’s documents, the information is so customised, many people use them to help with eulogies and other sensitive remembrance articles. Why? Because they have a unique ability to capture the person as they think and feel and dream.

You can tailor treatment, style your conversations, bring up topics and know when and where to fight little battles over care as well as the ones to let go all with the help of ExSitu.

Think of how treating someone like they want to be treated can do for how they relate to you. You can spot the difference between changes in mood from medical impacts or mental ones from who they are as a person better. And you can set a baseline for speaking to that person in a way that helps them feel less alone and more heard.

It also frees you from having to tiptoe with language, gives the gift of having a laugh with someone in an appropriate way, or even reading the sections of the news they care about. All because you know what sorts of things matter most to that person.

Don’t let the patient define the person

Taking control of treatment shouldn’t be at the expense of who a person is. By understanding the granular choices, values and ideas that make up a person, you have a better chance of taking care of them.

Don’t let the situation influence the person – and the way you treat them – so much that you forget to find out who they are.

Find out more about how ExSitu can make defining a person’s values when it comes to care easy.

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