Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
Like many, I’m taking some vacation time during the month of August. It got me thinking about the ways workers interact with residents when they take time off from their jobs. It’s more important than you might first think.
I know some staff members whose residents are so attached to them and become so anxious at the thought of them being away, the staff members don’t tell them they’re going. This seems to me like passing the buck to the covering coworkers who have to deal with the anxiety of the residents plus their feelings of betrayal that they weren’t informed in advance.
Other staff members don’t seem to think that residents will be missing them, so they don’t prepare them for their absence. As their psychologist, I know that residents acutely miss their regular staff members and really appreciate knowing in advance that they’ll be gone. When you’re not there – especially if you’re a CNA – it’s a generally bad time for your residents unless there’s been some consideration of the personalities of the residents and covering staff members.
In my training as a psychologist, we spent a lot of time talking about leave-taking, vacation coverage, and termination of therapy. The gist of it is preparing patients for the vacation in advance, talking about who will be there in the therapist’s absence, and ways patients can cope on their own.
I think that’s a good model to follow in most cases in LTC. It’s respectful to let the residents know you’ll be away and to tell them who’s covering or who might be good to ask for help while you’re gone.
I once treated a very attached, emotionally fragile resident whom I knew would be panicky about my two-week absence, which we discussed at length prior to my departure. Before I left, I gave her a sheet of paper on which I’d written down the dates I’d be away, the names of staff members she could talk to if she needed help, and healthy activities she could engage in such as journaling or talking to a friend. At the top of the paper I wrote in big letters, “I will return on September 14th.” When she saw that, she laughed with relief.
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