With the onset of NDIS and client directed funding, I thought it may be timely to republish this blog post.
All formal working relationships need rapport and trust to function well. This is particularly relevant to the relationship between an individual and the person/s who are employed to provide them with home care – carers or support workers. It is certainly important that the carer makes sure client’s feel at ease with approaching and relating to them – but it is equally important that the lines don’t become blurred.
This relationship between an individual and their carer, should never come at the expense of maintaining clear professional boundaries.
Successful and ethical working relationships are based on a clear understanding of what the carers role is – and just as importantly – what their role isn’t. The work is personal – but carers must maintain professional boundaries. These boundaries protect the worker from burn out – AND protect the client from having a support worker encroaching on their private affairs.
Some guidelines for appropriate boundaries.
Carers should empower clients not do everything for them :
The workers role is to assist clients to achieve their goals through guidance and encouragement – but is not doing all the work for them. When workers do things for a client that the client can do for themselves – they may be denying the individual the opportunity to learn and the satisfaction of completing a task. Everyone is capable of solutions and the worker should not imply or try to enforce that their solution or way of doing this is the right / best way.
There is a line between work and home life
Home Care workers can burn out very quickly – if they don’t recognize where work ends and where personal life begins. Care workers should always respect working hours, and not work outside of these. This ensures the worker is taking care of themselves, and in turn being effective in their role. The client needs to respect this line and refrain from wanting – or accepting any offers of - further contact with a support worker outside their rostered hours. This also includes the client or their family members having access to workers personal phone number.
Service Time is Not “Me” Time for your support staff
The employees focus should always be – the client or individual they are providing a service to. In general it is not appropriate for workers to disclose information about their personal life / circumstances – and if they do it should only be to provide information that may help in addressing a client’s needs. The worker should never use the time that they are providing a service as an opportunity to vent their feelings or discuss their problems. They should be listening.... not talking, so the focus remains on the person who is receiving the service.
Don’t Open Your Wallet or Ask a worker to open theirs
While this may seem obvious, it’s very easy for this to happen, especially when someone is operating on good intentions – on both sides of the relationship. It is NEVER appropriate for a worker to ask for money or suggest that they are having financial difficulties. This is a two way street – it is also never appropriate for a client to ask a staff member for money.
Don’t Offer to provide other Services to a Staff member or ask them to do this for you :
At times support team members or a client may have other skills that they can provide on a commercial basis. It is inappropriate for either party to ask the other to perform or provide services for them – whether it be for free or for pay. This may represent a serious conflict of interest that could cost the staff member their job. It also limits opportunities for the client to pursue competitive employment and may be seen as favouritism.
Staff should never exhibit behaviour that is unprofessional. Unprofessional behaviour includes the subjects already mentioned here but may also include:
- Being late for shifts
- Asking you if they can leave a shift early or start later
- Not attending to the duties they are required to undertake
- Not treating the client with dignity and respect at all times
- Swearing, raising their voice
- Attending to personal errands whilst providing a service
- Spending unreasonable amounts of time on the phone whilst providing a service
- Inviting a client into their home during service time or outside of work hours
- Touch – from a worker should only ever be of a nature that is essential to the person’s care
- Keeping information about a client from their employer
- Arriving for work under the influence of alcohol or drugs or consuming these whilst providing a service
- Sexual advances or misconduct
- Talking negatively about their employer or other staff that provide a service to the client
- Disclosing information about other clients or staff
Whilst the setting and maintaining these boundaries can seem like a lot of work - its because it is !! BUT it is necessary – because it sustains the workers energy to support the client effectively in the long run, and protects the client from a team member being over involved in their personal life and potentially putting them at risk.
So by all means it is vital to have trust in your carer, and feel you can approach them about issues on a day to day basis. However if a worker is behaving in an unethical or unprofessional manner then the employer needs to be aware.