Professional Boundaries between Helpers and Members

Learning and Development
Professional Boundaries between Helpers and Members

Let me ask you a question. When a Member or their family asks you to do something, what criteria do you use to decide if you do it or not? Unusual question, isn't it. However, it is a critical question as your criteria determines whether you have made a personal decision or a professional one. It determines whether you will stay within or step outside your role and responsibilities.

The Helpers' relationship with Members and their families is professional. Therefore, your decision needs to align with your responsibilities whilst being friendly. Let's use the following scenario to explore personal and professional boundaries.

A Member Scenario - Mandy and Adele

During a companionship visit, a Adele, a Member asks Mandy, a Helper to help declutter her wardrobe. Mandy and Adele go through the closet, sorting Adele's clothes and accessories into two piles. A keep pile and a pile of items for donation to charity. Whilst decluttering, Mandy admires a brooch and states, "Oh Adele, that's a lovely pin. My mother used to have one just like it."

Adele can see Mandy likes the brooch and wants to give the brooch to Mandy as a thank you. Adele was going to donate the piece to charity anyway, so would it be nice for the brooch to go to Mandy. She hands Mandy the brooch and says "Thank you for you have done over the last few years." Mandy takes the gift and continues sorting.

By the end of the visit, the wardrobe is clean and neat and Adele is really pleased. But there are 5 large, heavy bags of items to go to the charity shop. The charity shop is only open for donations tomorrow. However, Mandy is not rostered tomorrow; another Helper is rostered. Mandy offers to take the bags to the charity shop tomorrow to thank Adele for the brooch. Also, Mandy doesn't mind doing a few extra chores to help Adele as she knows how much Adele relies on her.

Adele's daughter, Eloise learns the pin has been gifted to Mandy. Eloise, however, always expected the brooch would be passed down the family to her one day. Giving the pin to Mandy instead of her makes her angry, and she quarrels with Adele, upsetting Adele greatly. Accepting the gift has changed the family dynamics. Eloise makes a complaint to Five Good Friends regarding the brooch and Mandy's behaviour.

Five Good Friends Policy and Procedures - Did Mandy follow them?

Five Good Friends has a Receiving Gifts and Favours Policy and referring to the procedure, Mandy hasn't followed the process. Accepting the gift was a personal decision; it emotionally harmed Adele and her daughter.

Also, according to the Receiving Gifts and Favours Policy, Mandy's willingness to take the bags to the charity shop outside her roster moves the relationship from professional to unprofessional and personal. It could be seen as seeking favouritism. If extra time was needed, Mandy should have contacted Five Good Friends beforehand. Or alternatively, organised the Helper scheduled the next day to do it.

Finally, Mandy thought she would be paid for taking the items to the charity shop. It was, after all, a 30-minute drive to and from the donation shop. However, Adele's home care package budget does not have enough funds for this service, and Five Good Friends weren't aware of additional time needed. Mandy didn't call or leave checkout notes to alert Five Good Friends the Member required extra help. No reimbursement can therefore be made to Mandy.

Unfortunately, Mandy can no longer provide services to Adele.

Stop, think, then act

After reading the scenario, can you see how a Helpers decisions affected the nature of the relationship with the Member? Did you see how easily the situation changed?

So, what should you do when a Member asks you to help? We encourage you to stop, think, then act.

Take a moment only to think about what you are about to do. Think about how you're going to do this. Does it follow the Five Good Friends policy? Does it pose a risk to the Member? Is it the safest way of doing things for yourself? What is the worst thing that could happen? And, if you are unsure, call us. Once you are sure, act in the Members best interest at all times. Go and help the Member in the safest way possible, documenting your actions at the end of the shift. Follow procedures, and if you become unsure again, stop, think, then act.

We hope the Mandy and Adele scenario increases your awareness of how your decisions affect Members, others, and yourself. If you haven't had the chance, we also encourage you to take the time to read the Receiving Gifts and Favours Policy. It will ensure you are fully across your responsiblities and boundaries when with a Member.

Watch this space over the next few months as we release a series of training materials regarding how to have a professional relationship with Members without losing your unique friendship.