In light of the recent happenings in Boston where once again our country has been exposed to a terrible act of violence, it is important to have some simple reminders related to the impact that these occurrences can have on individuals in our care. Though individual’s receiving services or who need a greater level of care may not always or completely understand what is happening, their RADAR will be on. Individuals receiving services will be sensitive to the mood of the staff who are working with them. In the Mandt System we often use the phrase affirm your emotions but choose your behaviors. In times of national tragedy, this is not easy to do but is necessary. We need to be grounded ourselves to be emotionally present for those individuals in our care and help them feel safe. Here are some things to consider:
Turn off the Television-
Often times in group homes and in institutional care the television is on for background noise and is being watched by the staff. It might be a good idea to ensure the television is off during the upcoming days to help us avoid getting caught up in the media frenzy that goes on around these events. It will allow us as staff to focus on building safe relationships with out being sabotaged by a breaking event.
It is the right of individuals receiving services to watch the television if they so desire. If they are watching the news, do your best to help them understand the events that are being discussed by processing with them. Use this time to build into your relationship and provide feelings of safety for the individual. Be honest about your feelings while showing concern for the individual’s feelings. If you do not know the answer to a question they may be pondering, be honest and say you do not know.
Watch for Changes in Behavior-
Keep your RADAR on and watch for signs of distress and changes in behavior that may indicate how an individual is being impacted. Post-traumatic stress is not uncommon following events such as the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Depending on the individual’s reaction, it may be necessary to make a referral to someone who can better assist the person in dealing with their reaction. It is important to watch out for fellow staff members as well. Many of us become quite emotional when these events occur and the increase in frequency we are experiencing recently can start to take its toll.
We must be aware that many people who have difficulty with expressive communication are very good at receptive communicate. Those individual may understand all that is going on around them from a self-preservation stand point. We must monitor our body language, facial expressions, and tones so as not to cause undo stress on those who depend on us to feel safe. Whenever possible we must use the team approach to help one another out and watch for signs of distress that may be passed on to our persons being served.
Though bad things will happen it is important to look for and focus on the good. The great Fred Rogers once said, “When I was a boy I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” YOU are the helpers! In times of stress, you must help those whom you are responsible for feel safe. Thanks for all you do!
Tim Geels – Mandt Director of Operational Instruction