How do I lovingly keep healthy boundaries? - AgingCare.com

How do I lovingly keep healthy boundaries?

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My clients want to overstep my caregiving role and try to make me into a confidant and buddy. I work with a lady who is so needy. There are a lot of aspects to her personality that I don't quite get, not being a counselor, but she wants more from me than I am comfortable giving. Basically I've been hired to make sure she is never alone, that she gets her meds and that she is safe. She needs constant assurance that she is liked. I feel sorry for her but sometimes I feel like she is trying to swallow me whole. Interestingly a lot of my clients are so desperate for a friend, maybe I'm being just to friendly and they are taking me the wrong way. Any ideas?

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For me, if I hire a caregiver to make sure my Mom is "never alone, gets her meds, and is safe", that is the MINIMUM I expect. What makes a caregiver special enough to keep is the heartfelt willingness to make sure she feels both liked and loved, even when I'm not there to do that. Playing cards with her instead of texting her own friends, looking through photo albums with her, etc. I would not be willing to pay someone to assume it's always okay to sit and do their homework while Mom watches hours of TV, for example. Don't know if this is what you mean, but the caregivers who have been worth their weight in gold are those who understand that for the hours they are there, they are paid to make her feel not only safe, but also loved, liked and appreciated. After all, she is the reason you have money coming in for service provided.
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I live with someone like this. To put it simply she is a narcissist and will absorb everything you have to give and want more. You need to keep strong boundaries. You can be friendly without becoming her friend and confidant.
Try to set up a list of diversions when the conversation turns to this...
Find a task to do with her...sort laundry, read a book out loud, listen to a song, point to a bird, flower or tree outside and ask her questions. Have some games (jenga, chinese checkers) or a puzzle. Turn the TV on to a wildlife/history or travel program. If you can't divert her use the telephone - call someone in her family she can talk to. I rotate family and friends on a daily/weekly basis.

"When you finish for the day and you return home at night, put the burden of work down. Don't carry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can. Relax; pick them up later after you've rested."
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GunFite has a very good point.

There is nothing wrong with forming a bond with this lady and it can be done with boundaries. Become her confidant but there's no need for you to share anything with her, in fact you shouldn't. Be her friend but that friendship can only go one way if you want to maintain a professional distance. So many of our elderly folks are very needy so let her need you. You are there for her and there's nothing wrong with allowing her to get close to you. That's what makes a good aide. I am a nurse who works in home healthcare for an agency and we have numerous aides who have had a positive impact on the families they work for. Working in healthcare may not be a good fit if you're uncomfortable with people getting close to you. If you feel like someone is swallowing you whole maybe find something else in healthcare that might be more comfortable for you. When I visit patient's homes I am devoured (continuing your metaphor). Families have lists of items they want to speak to me about, often their loved one (my patient) sits there having no idea what's being said and the aide also has concerns that need to be addressed usually in private. And this is when I'm barely over the threshold! I too do in-home work, usually for well-off patients who can afford my fee and I know how you feel. But going above and beyond is what makes what we do so great. I want our families to call the office and say, "Mary was so great, she did _________ with my mom and mom loved it. We want Mary back!" That's the kind of caregiver I want to employ. Be special! Let this lady get close to you. It's not like she's a part of your life, she's a client. And for the hours that you're there you can make her life so much nicer.

But if you are uncomfortable with this you shouldn't be in the home. Not every client is a good match for every aide and this continues to be a problem for you don't be too hard on yourself and maybe discuss it with your supervisor. We have aides with all kinds of reasons for not working with specific clients and we try to work with them and find them cases that they're comfortable with and I would hope that an aide would come to me and tell me that they're uncomfortable with a patient and tell me why so I can better staff that patient next time.

I don't think you're doing anything wrong but if you have it in you, you can be doing so much more for this lady if you want to be a Super Aide.
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That need to be liked is a legitimate human need, and some people get into a vicious cycle of acting needier and needier and being less and less likeable. If you ca do anything pleasant with them and convey interest in them that is strictly non-contingent on them acting needy, it may work. I have someone like this in my life and have had to set boundaries around calls while at work and constant "how r u" texts that usually mean "I want a favor but I've been told to express concern for the other person first" lol. This person does have many strengths as a human being though and getting together for coffee every now and then has been a really good thing.
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This woman is an employee - not family. Everyone who thinks that they are going to get a loving caregiver for $8.00 an hour - who is there to make sure the client is safe, gets her medications and makes sure she has some nutritious food - they still want more?? Caregivers are people also and those type of borderline personalities clients will take and take and NEVER be satisfied. I live with my Mother who is very needy and will swallow my life whole if I let her - and she is my own Mother. I sympathize with the original poster. It is not her job to be a "family member." I really doubt if when the client passes she will be included in the will if she is a family member. Set strong boundaries, do the best you can but do not expect that you are a "cruise director" for your clients. I am sure you do not get paid nearly enough. Good luck, I have been there and know what a tough job it can be.
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The lady is scared and needs assurance that she is safe & OK. I agree with GunnFite -- "never alone, gets her meds, and is safe" is the MINIMUM. Making her feel not only safe but also loved, liked and appreciated is implied.
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I am a paid caregiver also.... and the suggestion that this is not a good match for you is right on. I understand exactly what you are saying..... and I am not a good fit for this type of person either.... I love to joke and talk and let the person reminisce.... but constant reassurance takes it's toll, and also on the family if they are honest !!! And for the post about expecting the caregiver to treat the parent as you would.... well, I hope you outline for the caregiver what that is.... I feel I wear many hats in the job I do.... but being a surrogate daughter is not one of them.... I am not trying to be offensive here... but being on this side of caregiving is different from the family side.... it is my experience that way too much is expected and that is why I am so burned out...... I have been doing this for 16 years and it is the families that have burned me out.... not my clients.....
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Heydeb, I found what you said about many of your clients wanting to get too close, too fast really interesting. With my mother, it's the other way about; and I can see what both of you mean. Close bonds of friendship and emotional trust take time, usually: there are occasions when two people just 'click', but I think they're the exception, aren't they?

One of the things that I gave "gold stars" for at the residential care home my mother stayed at recently was that they understood this need for reserve immediately. They were friendly, but they didn't start in with her as though she were a close relative in need of a good old heart-to-heart. They called her by her title and surname until she told them otherwise. They allowed her privacy to help her get her bearings - no one hugged her, or patted her hand, or did any of the things that would have made her curl up and die inside.

I suppose some people thirst for company and conversation, and others are very wary. With this lady who's all over you like a rash, I don't think you ought to fake friendly feelings, even if it were possible; but do sympathise with her. She's clearly lonely, and I agree with many that alleviating loneliness is one of the most important things a professional caregiver can do.

I also take LadeeM's point that you are NOT a surrogate child. I can imagine some families do let that idea creep in - after all, they're paying a caregiver so that they don't have to watch their parent themselves, in a way, aren't they - but that really is unfair. And would they feel the same if the parent suddenly decided you deserved an inheritance, as "surrogate daughter"? - no, didn't think so!

You are there to ensure your client is safe, has her care needs met, and feels comfortable having you around her: be as politely clear about that as you need to be. If you're with her for a significant period of time, and get to know her, that's good and you may find that you begin to develop genuine feelings of affection for her. But they're not part of the care package, and you're not under contract to love her.
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Even the closest of good relationships has boundaries. Even a marriage. True love does not mindlessly say yes to everything, like the kind of "love" an overindulgent parent may have for their children, as they fail to help them become independent adults. True love maybe never stops thinking what is best for someone, but that is rarely to indulge every whim or to let itself be used up and worn out. I'm all for crossing boundaries and breaking silos when it really is a good thing...most of my life suffers from too many artificial boundaries and failures of people to pull together for a common good, but real life has some reasonable limits.
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i was an only child and my private duty nurse/in private homes....my mom was loved by everyone she worked with...the "patient" and the whole family....every case was longterm and every one of them wanted her to stay....when they pass...she would come home and cry and mope for weeks. She watched tv with them...drew pictures, sang songs, read the Bible,they made scrapbooks from their fav fotos... baked cookies and heard their life stories over and over again...she never had one unkind thing to say about them ....she was tired and sometimes her back hurt from some heavy lifting but there were no BOUNDARIES...they just became family.
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