5 Tips to Create Emotionally Healthy Boundaries with Patients as a Caregiver

5 Tips to Create Emotionally Healthy Boundaries with Patients as a Caregiver

5 Tips to Create Emotionally Healthy Boundaries with Patients as a Caregiver

September 27 2019

5 Tips to Create Emotionally Healthy Boundaries with Patients as a Caregiver

Protecting the Patient and Yourself

For many, the ability to care for others is the reason why you become a professional caregiver, whether you are a nurse, an aide or someone who provides companionship. In your profession you will meet many people, some with whom you may feel a close connection to for one reason or another. However, it is important to maintain professional boundaries, not only to respect the patient and their family, but to also maintain your own emotional health. It can be emotionally draining as a caregiver to become very attached to patient after patient only to see them pass away after losing their battle with cancer or Alzheimer’s. So, while it is important to connect with your patients on a level that builds trust, and to some extent friendship, it is also important to protect your emotional health to avoid burnout and other issues. These 5 tips will help you find that balance and set healthy boundaries that protect the patient as well as yourself.

Be Respectful and Fair

While it may go without saying, it is crucial that all patients be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. It is also important to treat the patient’s family in the same way. Make sure that you are fair and consistent with your patients as this will build trust and boost your professionalism. 

You may have patients that confide in you and ask you to keep something a secret. However, it is not professional to keep secrets for your patients. Also, do not take the patient’s side when they are in an argument with their spouse or family caregiver. It is best to be neutral and to only provide facts about their care and health condition, allowing the patient and family to make their own decisions and to resolve their problems on their own. 

Do Not Discuss Your Personal Issues

While caring for a patient you may become close with them, however, do not discuss your intimate personal details with your patients. You are their professional caregiver, not their best friend. Patients may ask questions to get to know you better, such as “Do you have any children?” If you feel comfortable answering questions such as this that is okay, but do not discuss your children’s personal issues with your patients. 

Do Not Visit Patients Off Duty

The following are probably part of your agency’s policies but are a good refresher. Remember that it is inappropriate to visit your patients when you are off duty or out of uniform. Don’t give patients your personal cell phone number for after-hours support. If they ask for it, politely remind them of the agency’s support number that they can call any time for help.    

Inspire Confidence

Remember to dress professionally by wearing a clean uniform, or if you do not have a uniform, dress nicely. Also, remember to act and speak professionally. All this will help to inspire confidence in your patients and their families that you know what you are doing and can help. Remember that it is okay to give sincere compliments to your patients to help boost their confidence and self esteem, but do not be flirtatious or engage in any behavior that may be misconstrued as such. 

Take Care of Yourself

Part of setting up professional boundaries is to also protect you. Remember to enjoy your time off work doing what you need and want to do. Spend time with the ones that you love as this will help rejuvenate you. Know that it is okay to feel sad and to work through those emotions. Remember to let go of the things you can’t control and know when to say no. 

There is an emotional cost that comes with caring for others. If you are not careful, it can cause burnout. But by following these tips, you will be able to set up emotionally healthy boundaries with your patients. These boundaries will boost your professionalism, inspire confidence, help you provide better care for your patients and protect your personal life and time off from work. 

For more information, be sure to check out the American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics for Nurses