I spoke with a home care worker who’s been “bumped out of the way” a few times by the 76-year-old lady in her care. The worker, who I’ll call Anne, says she loves her job and has lots of good times with her client. But occasionally – when the client is feeling distressed – she will lash out.
Being struck or grabbed is the second most common cause of occupational injury in health care (after overexertion), according to this This Dementia: Understanding Risks and Preventing Violence from WorkSafeBC.
“In B.C., this accounts for more than 1,000 time-loss claims per year or up to 20 workers injured each week — many of who are injured as a result of caring for people with dementia,” reads the backgrounder. “As their intellectual functioning declines, people with dementia may lose the ability to verbally communicate their physical or emotional discomfort, and instead, may express their needs through behaviours. If these behaviours are not recognized and responded to appropriately, these people can resort to verbal or physical violence.”
Working with Dementia: Safe Work Practices for Caregivers is a video series from WorkSafeBC describes the effects of dementia and uses re-enactments that show best practices for staying safe. They use a very compassionate approach that shows how to approach, communicate, redirect, and problem-solve when nothing is working as it should.
Home care worker advocates calm and compassion
I watched the videos with Anne, who was very impressed.
“The videos do a really good job of showing how much more you get from compassion, positivity, and calmness. I would definitely recommend them to others because they really point out exactly what I deal with,” she said. “It’s approaching the person, keeping calm, and realizing that you can just back away from the situation… You can’t impose your will on them because it causes anxiety and it’s not fair to the person.”
Thanks to Anne for sharing her story and taking her compassion into the workplace. See the full video series – Dialogue on Dementia: Keeping Safe aired on Shaw TV in November 2011.