Maintaining a Professional Care Relationship With Your Client

May 5, 2014

There is a natural intimacy that develops between a caregiver and a patient. A caregiver is responsible for the patient’s well-being, while a patient is dependent upon a caregiver for their health and comfort. While this warmth can be beneficial to the patient’s healing, it is essential to maintain a level of professionalism in the caregiver-patient relationship. Upholding a professional relationship protects a care provider from conflicts of interest and potential liability, and is key to a lasting care relationship and career.

Caring for Needy

1 – Set firm boundaries and maintain them.

A care provider does not have to be cold to maintain professional decorum, and warmth and empathy should not be confused with being unprofessional. Keeping a professional distance simply means keeping focused on the job. This ensures that, if problems arise, they are prompted only by conflicts about a patient’s care and not by personal conflicts.

Be friendly and empathetic, but remember you are not being paid to be someone’s friend. You are being paid to provide care.

2 – Stick to your area of expertise.

A patient in need of healthcare is likely a person in need of other forms of assistance. When someone needs help beyond your scope of practice, it can be difficult to refuse, but it is a bad idea to involve yourself in clients’ lives beyond their healthcare.

Do not entangle yourself in family arguments, provide financial advice, accept loans, borrow items or volunteer any information outside your field. Your client will respect you as a professional and you’ll avoid unnecessary conflict or misunderstandings.

3 – Incorporate boundaries into care contracts.

While many boundary issues that might come up throughout the course of a care provider’s employment cannot be anticipated, some potential issues can be anticipated and avoided. When working in a household with young children, for instance, it is very easy for a parent to ask a care provider to just “keep an eye” on their child while they go to the store or run another minor errand.

As much as a caregiver may want to help out in a pinch, it’s a bad idea to accept additional responsibilities outside what is expressly in your contract. Just because you are there doesn’t make it your job.

In such close working conditions, plenty of opportunities arise to cross the professional line between a care provider and client. By setting up firm boundaries with patients and the families of patients from the start of the working relationship, a care provider should be able to avoid many of the pitfalls that appear throughout the course of his or her employment.

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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