For Seniors: Admitting Error is a Sign of Strength

Jun 2nd, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

This column covers a plethora of subjects.  Most of the time, most of the subjects deal with a whole range of issues and concerns, suggestions and topics which affects the senior citizen individually.  Sometime we touch on subjects that are generic.  All of these topics are designed to speak to the senior, as he/she goes through the process of productive aging.  We do not intend to make enemies, rather we intend to point out and deal with those concerns that have to do with the daily lives of elder persons. 

The other day we chose a topic, which aroused some considerable reaction. It dealt with “Assisted Living Sometimes Means Living Without Assistance.”  We seem to have hit a nerve.  A facility with which we are acquainted, and its corporate staff seemed to respond quite defensively.  That’s okay, but a far more productive response would have been, “We may differ on the issue, but let’s discuss it to see where improvements can be made.” No institution, no matter how well meaning, is without its need for improvement.  No service agency ever achieves 100 percent, no matter how hard it may try. 

All agencies love to bathe in the waters of affirmation when hearing from its residents, clients or patients.  However, when there is repetitive feedback, about which it seems or “feels” little is done in response, then the level of frustration inflates.  Management, in all situations, does well when its response to its base, i.e. residents, etc., is always to listen and to respond with a definite plan of action, a reporting back to those involved, and an attitude which welcomes the client to demonstrate satisfaction, or lack thereof, with action taken.

Some years back, I was a patient in a large hospital, on whose board I also sat.  During the process of a routine test, a nurse attempted to apply an IV, which was required for my procedure.  She had trouble locating a vein.  After several attempts, she abruptly gave up, indicating it was lunch time anyway and left the room. Because I was not yet sedated, I was fully aware of what had transpired.  After my release from the hospital, I corresponded with the Medical Director, who had been a personal and professional acquaintance of many years.  Within a reasonable period of time I had a call from the Director with an invitation for lunch.  During that occasion, the Director shared with me an item by item response to my letter.  As to the person who had struggled with the IV, he reported she was no longer with the hospital.  There were several other listed concerns in my letter, some dealing with concerns other patients had had during their stay.  He carefully replied to all of them.  My final question was, had I not been a member of the board, but just an ordinary patient, enumerating legitimate complaints, how would I have been treated?  His reply was, that he would have hoped they would have received the same courtesies. 

Personnel responsible for the smooth running of an institution need always to be alert to common errors and the sensitivity required to avoid defensiveness, while exercising objective attention to the issues at hand. Admitting error is a sign of strength.  Developing a style for assuring persons, whose literal day to day existence is in the hands of persons who are there to demonstrate thorough going caring, should always be a matter of first priority.  No excuses allowed.  Swallow the necessary pride and do what has to be done to deal with even the most intransigent patient.  If the situation is such that some staff just can’t communicate with the patient, assign someone else to that room.  If the client continues to create difficulty and tension, find ways to introduce a third party to develop a climate of conciliation. 

The role of the institution in question is to care for the resident.  Bottom line.  If the institution finds itself compromised in offering the very best care and the most sensitive attention to those in its keeping, it may be time to examine why there seems to  be irresolvable conflicts.  If staff resists review, it may be time for staff to be evaluated, as to their continuing effectiveness.  If the patient is the real problem, it may mean that a family conference is required.  There are numerous ways to address issues that reflect on the institution without blaming anyone or ignoring real needs.



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