Setting professional boundaries

Care Worker

The Better Caring revolution is giving both clients and workers the power and choice to choose each other, and the ability to negotiate rates and services. As one worker Tracey says, “There’s a real humanness to these relationships. We’re just two human beings spending together.” Clients love the flexibility they get from choosing a worker on Better caring and being able to design their support on their terms. But this is still a professional relationship and, as a worker on Better Caring, you still have a responsibility to maintain professional boundaries.

What does this mean? It means remembering that you’re a care and support worker, not a friend.

Why is this so important?

If you’re over-involved with a client, this could affect your professional standards or violate the client’s rights. And if you don’t know and stick to your own limits, you could burn out. Care and support work is both demanding and rewarding but if you’re doing more than you should, it takes its toll.

How does this look?

  • Maintaining the privacy of personal information of both worker and client, or information not relevant to your duties.
  • Respecting confidentiality and only disclosing confidential information with the client’s written or verbal consent (or that of their legal guardian or nominated family member).
  • Exercising your duty of care to keep your client out of harm’s way, act with a knowledge of your client’s disability and/or living situation, and be mindful of your own abilities and limitations. You shouldn’t be giving advice outside of your role or expertise.

Signs that boundaries are being violated

Ironically, acting like a friend to a client can mean not acting in your client’s best interests. For example, you may develop strong feelings for the client, have personal conversations, accept gifts, do things for a client which they could do themselves, and physically touch the client where inappropriate (for example, when providing social support rather than high needs). Importantly, you may decide that only you can offer services to the client, thus taking away their right to choose their own supports.

Where it gets tricky

You’ll need to find the balance being over-involved and being detached to the point that the client feels rejected or abandoned. And what about that nice bottle of wine for your birthday? Under our terms and conditions, you’re not allowed to accept gifts from clients. You can always just say, “Your thanks is enough – this is my job.”

How to fix it

First up, are you acting in your client’s best interests? Review your relationship and re-establish some boundaries by clarifying your role. You may need to move the client to a new worker or share the client with a buddy. Lastly, think about the quality of your own relationships outside work and how you can spend time on them.

For more details about professional boundaries, take a look at Whoa! Please mind my boundaries or give us a call on 1300 73 65 73.