Is There Really Such a Thing as a Difficult Client?

As carers we work with many clients and each one presents in their own way. Some we may classify as ‘easy’ to work with and others less so. And when we share information about a client with another carer, we have a responsibility to be honest as well as non-judgemental.

Discern the difference between the approach of the following two carers:

  • The first carer describes a client as ‘difficult’ and proceeds to list all the things ‘wrong’ with them.
  • The second carer says; “I found working with this client difficult”, or “I didn’t know what to do or how to be with them”.

In the first example, the carer looks out and sees the client as either being the problem or having the problem. In the second example, the carer with honesty looks within and acknowledges their part in whatever happened. This is a core attribute of self-reflective learning.

I have learned that whenever an incident happens, to stop, check in with myself to understand what happened and why, without self-critique. When carer or client reacts to something that has happened, and the carer is unable or unwilling to self-reflect, they close the door to their own and the client’s learning and understanding.

This is a missed opportunity.

When these flashpoints are welcomed and responded to as invitations to be more self-aware, it opens the way for carers to deepen the quality of care they offer clients.

In every relationship we have a responsibility to not judge, or criticise, but to understand both ourselves and others. We’re also best supported when we accept that whatever happens with a client can often be a reflection of our own behaviour towards them. This is where the quality of our movements is fundamental and very important: are they tender, settled and unrushed, or are they hard, anxious, hurried and without warmth?

Elders are very sensitive (as we all are) and the energy or quality we bring to them is felt deeply: which means that we can either support or unsettle them simply by the way we are with them. This choice is then ours.

When carers connect and relate to each client in their true essence and not from their behaviours, it benefits both carer and client: clients can be more fully themselves and carers can truly be of service to them. We can then say that there is no such thing as a difficult client, only moments (which may be many) that may present for us to learn from.

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