5 Ways of Dealing With Difficult Patients

How to deal with difficult patients and kids

Whether you’re working with a young person with mental health issues or attending to the needs of an elderly person, dealing with difficult patients is very common in the care industry.

In order for you to solve any difficulties, first, you need to put yourself in the patients’ shoes.

How will they be feeling? What sort of emotions will they display?

Common patient emotions

The truth is, every patient is unique and will react differently. However, there are common signs which you’ll start to identify as you gain more experience in your industry.

Angry patient

Anger can be triggered by many outcomes, so your first job here is to understand what made them feel this way.

One of the most common triggers among the elderly is when their routine is broken or they simply can’t remember why you’re doing something.

A patient in pain

Whether the pain is physical or psychological, a patient suffering is one you must listen and see to. These kinds of patients can be quite emotionally taxing to work with, so it’s important to stay strong and do what you can.

Shopping list patient

Some patients will build up a list of things they need you to do and dump them on you all at once. If you have one of these, it’s vital that you continue to smile and be prepared to work hard!


Patients with complex comorbidity mean they have one or more diseases or disorders that keep occurring. It sometimes is defined as the co-occurrence of schizophrenia. In short, this is usually psychological and can make it very hard to identify whether the issue they’re talking about is either a mental reoccurrence or is actually real.

The Victor Meldrew

“I don’t believe it”! On a slightly lighter note, you will come across some patients that just love a good old moan. In fact, it’s a very British thing to moan about others. However, as patients get older, it’s not uncommon for them to lose the filter and spurt out every annoyance that crops up in the head.

Tips for dealing with difficult patients

Once you’ve established what kind of patient you have and why they might be feeling that way, it’s time to address how you deal with them.

Here are a few top tips on how to successfully work with difficult patients to get you started.

Remain calm

I know it’s easier said than done, especially when a patient seems like they’re purposely trying to make your job difficult.

But it’s essential to take a deep breath and listen to what they’re saying. Always remind yourself that the patient isn’t attacking you personally, they are just acting on feelings of anxiety, a lack of attention or resisting help.

If you need to, don’t be afraid to take a couple of minutes to collect your thoughts and mentally release any negative feelings before returning to the patient.

Take an interest in the conversation

Whether a patient is angry or moaning about something, you should always engage and listen to what they have to say.

If you’re passive in the conversation, they’ll feel like you’re not supporting them and could turn against you.

When replying to their worries and grievances, refrain from using negative language as this could make things worse. Instead, paraphrase what the patient just told you to let them know that you heard them loud and clear, then give them a set of options to choose from.

Giving the patient the power to decide on how they’d like to be helped will make them feel valued and appreciated.

Be empathetic

Difficult patients don’t necessarily mean to act the way they are. You should remind yourself that it’s not always nice to be stuck in a care home or hospital.

So instead of being defensive, be open and respectful. Let your patient know that they’re important to you and you understand their grievances.

Be firm

It’s not always possible to reason with a difficult patient. That’s why it’s vital that you take a stance, without being negative or coming across as aggressive.

Tell your patient that you understand what they’re saying and that you’ll return in 15 to 30 minutes to check up on them. Giving them a timeframe will allow them to cool down and also demonstrate that you aren’t deserting them.

Setting these kinds of boundaries will also keep you safe and stop an issue from escalating.

Talk to someone

Even if you work in a very independent role, it doesn’t mean that you need to suffer alone. Reach out to your manager or colleague.

You don’t need to talk about the job, just take a moment to discuss other things in your life. Using this time to laugh, smile and engage in a pleasant conversation will brighten up your day.

You can then use that positive energy to help your difficult patient.

Final thoughts

Whether your patient is angry or being difficult, you just need to appreciate that these traits are a part of the care industry.

While you can’t always stop the way your patient is feeling or acting, you can approach it in a way that helps make their life (and yours) that little bit easier.

Just stay calm, listen and remain positive – because what you’re doing is making a real difference to the world.

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