How to establish boundaries when providing personal and complex care

There’s no doubt about it, caring for a person with complex needs can be incredibly challenging. As part of this, support workers will have daily personal interactions with clients as well as their family, friends and wider community.

The nature of the care provided in these situations means workers often have access to a clients’ personal and sometimes confidential information. In addition, you may also receive requests for assistance that fall outside of your role as a carer. That’s where the need for clear boundaries  comes into play.

But how do you go about establishing these boundaries with someone who is receiving complex care? Let’s look at a few techniques that will help you keep the relationship professional, while also meeting the needs of your patient.

Avoid establishing a personal relationship

Avoid allowing a personal relationship with your clients or anyone in their circle of care. Keep the relationship professional at all times to ensure this boundary isn’t crossed. In addition to this, it is wise to avoid introducing clients to your family or key people in your life. For instance, as much as it might seem like a kind thing to do, and a way to expand their social circle and community connection, don’t invite them to your home or family gatherings. In addition, don’t share your personal information, such as email addresses, phone numbers or even marital status with your clients.

Financial matters are off the table

Your financial matters are completely separate to your role as a carer. Do not ever borrow from or lend money to your clients or their wider support network. Also, avoid talking about your financial situation with clients.

Only give advice you’re able to give

Limit the advice you offer to your area/s of expertise. In your role as a care provider it is part of your duty of care to look out for the wellbeing of your clients. If your client needs advice in a certain area of life – be it financial, emotional or health related in an area you are not an expert – you must refer them to a professional.

Respect confidentiality

Any information shared with you in your capacity as a support worker is strictly between you and your patient. It should not be shared with anyone else, except in the event you are fearing for their personal safety – either from themselves or others. If there is something you see that concerns you, speak to your manager in the first instance for guidance on what to do next.

Work issues

Any issues relating to your employment or organisation should be discussed with your employer rather than patients. Any sense of instability or the prospect of change can be very unsettling for people with complex care needs.

We hope these tips will help you establish healthy boundaries with your patients, allowing you to provide the highest level of appropriate crae, while maintaining the professionalism required when working with complex care recipients.