Dear Family Resource,
I think my mom’s caregiver is too attached to her. We hired Gail six years ago to help my parents a few days a week. After dad died Gail started coming daily. My mom doesn’t drive and Gail takes her to appointments, shopping, out to lunch, etc. She’s paid as an hourly employee and has also become mom’s friend. But even a friend has better boundaries than Gail has! She’s widowed with no children and acts like my family is her family. I can’t have a private conversation with my mom or take her out to lunch without Gail saying she’ll come along “just to help.” I don’t want to hurt her feelings or upset my mom but should Gail be at the house even when she’s not scheduled or paid to be there? What do you think about this situation?
I understand your concern. It’s perfectly understandable that you want time alone with your mom and feel a need to set boundaries for Gail. It’s really okay to ask Gail to leave the room or not intrude on your conversations. You should never feel that the caregiver’s needs or desires come before yours and your mother’s. Speak to your mother about your concerns and together make a detailed and specific task list. It’s also important for you and your mother to discuss setting boundaries. The two of you should sit down with Gail to review the task list and schedule, and to discuss the need for boundaries. Be sure Gail understands what you want her to do and do not want her to do. She probably will appreciate having a written plan to follow. At the same time, let Gail know that you welcome the friendship and companionship she provides to your mother as part of her caregiving, but that she also must recognize she’s a paid helper, not a family member.
At Family Resource Home Care we instruct our caregivers to maintain a warm and friendly, but professional, relationship with our clients. Our caregivers keep to a predetermined schedule and fill out time cards. When the shift is finished they leave their client’s home. When family members come to visit or phone, our caregivers give their clients privacy by leaving the room. They also bring their own meals and snacks and only share a meal if invited.
Companionship is an important aspect of being a good caregiver, but recognizing boundaries is too. Your mom and Gail should have social time during the shift, but only after all the tasks are completed. Good luck!