Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ask Me How Not Asking for Help Worked for Me

I got a call from reception letting me know Harry was in the lobby asking for me. Harry had showed up with no notice and asked me for help in going to the doctor. Though it wasn't exactly an emergency situation I decided to accompany him. I spoke to my supervisor Feona to let her know where I was going and the two of us left for the clinic that was down the street a few blocks away.

About halfway there I realized that I should've asked for another staff member to come with me. For sake of confidentiality I prefer not to go into details. I will say that If I had thought the trip through for 10 seconds I would've realized I needed a hand. I did end up getting a bit of needed help from a kind passerby.

Sometimes I'm not very good about asking for help. I get prideful or feel a sense of obligation that I need to take care of a task by myself. It's an obnoxious attitude that true, at times I need to have it -- at moments that I need to solve a problem by myself. Other times though it's easier to avoid the hassle and just ask.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I am Not the One Who Needs Convincing

Dah, this is difficult because who will you, the client, complain to about not getting approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI -- disability benefits) / a medical device that you need, but ah, I'm not the one who needs to be convinced. I need to hear your explanation about why you believe you need a specific service perhaps, but I do not the final decisions make.

* Avoid calling 1800 social security number for anything but making appointments!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No Put Downs About My Appearance Please

One of the things I need to take in stride at work but still bug me (I'll start a list) are passing negative words that clients say to me, from my size to my general appearance (and at this point I wonder how often male case managers at my agency have heard similar comments). These could be about the length of my hair, its color, adding weight, and so on. These aren't very different from some situations that I meet an acquaintance who says a similar small disparaging word to me. Or family member for that matter. But this is a different relationship so it needs a different response than I would say to the first two.

It's true that most of my clients don't do this and usually it's the same clients who're guilty of saying these negative comments, often them being the first first statement they say. Usually when a client says something like that I go into automatic response mode and prefaced with either a smile or a blank face I go on to say, "Let's talk more about you." Typically an irresistible suggestion. Or maybe I should pretend they're all made in good humor, like one client who told me, "You seem shorter this time. I think you shrink every time I see you!"

One reaction I could appreciate is a client's initial surprised comment about me looking young when she first meets me. I more easily understand where the client's coming from in that case. As a side note, I sometimes think about the dynamic between young (mid 20s or younger) case managers and adults in their 40s and 50s (vs working with an older case manager who may be seen by an older client to have more life experience).

On the other side are compliments. I don't mind an occasional compliment (as long as it's superficial) and I've complimented clients myself. Compliments that preface requests for items though, well, that's sometimes part of the game.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Vent Denied

Just like there are those times clients just need you to listen to them vent, there are those moments that I just need my coworkers to listen to me rant. And there are few things more frustrating than vents denied.

Worry not coworker, you'll have your chance to tell me that my client is acting entitled or manipulative because she's doing what she needs to do to survive or because she has mental illness or because of another very logical reason. That will come later. Give me a few minutes to lay it out before this starts. And no suggestions of me needing to calm down because that doesn't work.
Now I'm not talking about cases when a case manager vents out of proportion -- when every second sentence is a bitter client -related comment or if she shows other signs of compassion fatigue. I'm just talking about the occasional waltzing into someone's office, ranting for a bit, followed by decompression/debriefing. Perhaps with a dramatic exit to wrap it all it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Provider Talking to Client Through Me

In the last couple of weeks I've gone with two different clients on two appointments to meet their providers; One with a physician and another with a benefits worker. In each I had the surreal experience of witnessing the provider behave as if my client wasn't quite visible -- in the first the physician spoke to me, nearly ignoring my client which angered me, and in the second the benefits worker made eye contact only with me during the entire appointment. ARGH! In each appointment my client tended to ask the provider questions through me with the provider more likely to do the same. Interestingly, in neither instance did my client seemed offended or annoyed that the provider wasn't talking to her directly.
Sure, I understand I'm the advocate so some participation on my part is expected during these types of appointments. But even though I could understand where the provider's coming from in talking to me I became aware of how insulting it may feel for the client -- the person actually receiving the service -- to not be greeted or spoken to directly. And yes, I am putting the burden on the providers to be those who try harder because that's part of our job.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sadness and Happiness Infectious

I found an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune where researchers studied participants' levels of happiness and sadness (in a long term study) and how they were influenced by these participants' associations with people of different emotional states. The influence we have on one another fascinates me; I'm a social psychologist at heart.

How are sadness and happiness like diseases? They're infectious, study finds

Monday, July 5, 2010

Aren't I Your Only Client?

Things My Client Thinks I Do in My Office When I'm Not Seeing Him
-- Plan my day so I'm not in my office when he calls
-- Sleep
-- Stare at the painting across from me as I wait for him to call me
-- Scribble cartoons on my desk

It's both amusing and annoying that some clients aren't able to see that I don't have 2 or 5 clients on my caseload but have over 30. Particularly when it comes to walk ins ("Hello, I'm here!... Why can't you see me?").

My client, it's true. I don't sit in my office playing Jenga by myself while waiting for reception to let me know you stopped by to fill out the redetermination papers for public aid.

Also included here are requests to accompany you on an appointment offsite. Even if you made it with your provider for a date two weeks from now -- though I do appreciate you took my schedule in consideration -- but consider me the third provider you need to coordinate with before committing to a date.