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Thread: Problem with Boundaries

  1. #1

    Problem with Boundaries

    I don't know if I should put this in caregiving or life. I need some feedback on how to handle a potentially disasterous situation. I am posting mostly because I do want to find a solution that involves not firing this person, if that can at all be avoided. But I don't know if that is going to be possible.


    After being unable to fill one of my empty full-time night positions for almost a year, I finally found an RN who seemed ideal. Very skilled and knowledgable, very experienced with the type of care I need, shows up on time, doesn't call in sick all the time. Isn't constantly on her cell phone or texting. In short, somebody I have been hoping to find for a very long time. Until now my mom had pretty much been covering most of the open nights and it has been taking a big toll on her physically. But it has been very hard to find a second night person for some reason.

    Anyways she has been working with me for about 3 months now and while this wasn't noticable at the start, she is constantly bringing her personal issues into work. She works 12 hour shifts and that's a long time so it's not like I don't expect my nursing staff to talk to me about non-care issues. But she really takes it to extremes, every shift is filled with conversations about her health, financial, family, etc issues. And she has some heavy duty things to deal with. It's gotten to the point where I am very stressed out just by the idea of her coming on shift. I don't sleep a lot at night and she knows this and will often seek me out to talk about her issues. At first I was sympathetic and would listen. Might have been a mistake on my part because she took that to mean, I guess, that she could unload on and vent to me about all this stuff. I have to admit that some of it is very upsetting--which is one reason I am so stressed out.

    I let it slide because I figured maybe she was just going through a rough time. I thought if it was just going to be temporary I could put up with it. Because, and this might sound bad, I really can't afford to let her go right now. For my sake and my mother's sake.

    It's not that I don't care about her or her problems. Although I am starting to wonder if I am getting to that point. I just can't deal with it. I have try to change the subject, have suggested on more than one occasion maybe she look into counselling or other resources, and even on sometimes in desperation will pretend I am asleep when I am not just so I don't have to listen to it. She works 4 nights on 4 nights off. And because I am also currently short one day nurse position, the agency has been asking her to fill on on days on her 4 nights off. Yikes! So now I am getting it nearly every day. And while I wish I could just say "look you need to stop telling me so much" I guess I am finding it difficult to handle this situation.

    Any thoughts on a possible way to deal with this? I tried to go through the agency supervisor and she was no help at all. First in that she rarely returns my calls and second when I finally did actually demand a meeting with her (I had other issues to discuss besides this), she just said "well she's struggling, you know how it is...." Which pretty much made me feel like I was being a bitch to complain about it. I did have a say in hiring her, but none of this came out in the interview process. And I didn't have access to references, the agency checked that. But I guess I am left feeling if this hasn't changed in 3 months, and is actually just showing signs of getting worse, I need to somehow put a stop to it. Before I have a breakdown myself...

    Long post, sorry. I am just dreading her coming tonight, 5 hours before she gets here. I was going to write her a letter and have her read it when somebody else was around but that would just be very awkward. It's just not a good situation. I realize I need to be firm here about professional boundaries. Right now there are none. I don't know...do I just let her go? It's likely she wouldn't loose her job fully as the agency would just move her somewhere else as they are chronically short of RNs. So that makes me feel less guilty than if she was going to be out of a job altogether.

    And here I thought I was getting better at managing my caregivers. But actually I really suck at it

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Hi OJ,
    Sorry to hear your care person is not only not paying attention to boundaries, but leaping over them. You have a right to be upset, and you do not sound like a bitch to me in the least. The sort of things she is sharing with you are usually shared with a therapist, who one pays great gobs of money to for the privledge of a compassionate and listening ear. You are not in that role, nor should you have to be. I also think that sometimes folks in wheelchairs are like magnets for these sort of people. I know I hav had it happen a couple of times too. Maybe they think we will be so much more empathetic than the norm, instead of having the insight to realize our own battles take a fair amount of energy without the addition of vicarious problems being thrust upon us. I don't really know how to handle it either, but faking sleep is not something to feel guilty about. Could you just come out and tell her you have a lot on your own plate right now, and while you realize that she is stressed you are not in a position to deal with it? Or, lacking that, could you just be "really, really into this book right now" or "must do this work online, sorry" until she gets the hint?

  3. #3
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    Amanda, you have so much on your plate right now, what with you sister, and your friend's little boy.

    Maybe you could just say that? Something like, "it is not like I don;t care about your problems, but right now I am struggling woth a lot of serious problems in my own family. And I know this sounds abrupt, but could you please refrain from sharing your problems with me? "

    This really puts it all back on you, which you shouldn't have to do, but considering the difficulties in finding people, and the fact that she is good at the rest of the job, it might do it.


    eta .... ps eileen, I was wroting when you posted, sorry .... didn;t know I was copying off your paper. LOL
    Last edited by sjean423; 04-27-2009 at 11:43 PM.
    T7-8 since Feb 2005

  4. #4
    I agree. This is unprofessional and inappropriate for her to be doing this. Tell her that you care about her, but you cannot take on the burden of her life too. Offer to help her find a good counselor. If that does not take care of the problem, notify the agency and ask them to counsel her. She is being paid to care for you, not the other way around.

    (KLD)

  5. #5
    I’m not sure if it’s you or the agency that does the hiring and firing or what policies/procedures are in place to be followed. Surely the agency has a black and white policy to deal with exactly this situation. My agency does and the first step is for you to explain the situation to her directly and honestly, you can come up with excuses but from my experience that just prolongs the inevitable. If it can’t be resolved then it’s time to involve you, her, the agency and independent advocates if necessary.

    I have had this problem before and the sooner it is resolved the weight will lift from your shoulders. 12 hours is a long shift you really need someone you get along with.

    Best of luck.


  6. #6
    Senior Member skippy13's Avatar
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    I have investigated agencies to possibly provide caregivers to me. One of the ways I did this was to ask to see a copy of their hiring policies or company rule book. One of the agencies stated in their hiring policies right up front that there will be no sharing of personal problems with the clients. The clients are there to be cared for and the care provider is there to provide care. Period. It is not permitted for them to burden the clients in this way. I think most agencies will have a similar policy.


    She is not there to be your new best friend, she is there to provide care. Now is the hard part. She may not be aware that she is really being unprofessional. She may feel that she is just being friendly, no matter how over friendly. Just tell her that you are used to less sharing in your professional relationships and it makes you uncomfortable when that line is crossed. If there is no change, then by all means ask for another to replace her.

    Some people are just so lonely they will unburden themselves on everyone around them, not realizing that that is the very thing pushing others away.
    Anything worth doing, is worth doing to excess

  7. #7
    I agree with KLD. Since she is working through the agency then it is best to let notify them. They can handle the situation more professional than you will. We had similar problem 2 months ago and we notified the agency and asked for a replacement.

  8. #8
    Senior Member cypresss's Avatar
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    ask her to pay you for counseling.

    just joking.

    I know what you mean..I have a relative which come to visit me from time to time..and she talk so much(and stupid things) that after 15 minutes I get headaches. I tanks to God when she comes and I have headphones on my ears.
    This signature left intentionally blank.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by cypresss View Post
    ask her to pay you for counseling.

    just joking.

    I know what you mean..I have a relative which come to visit me from time to time..and she talk so much(and stupid things) that after 15 minutes I get headaches. I tanks to God when she comes and I have headphones on my ears.
    If I charged her for all the listening I have done for the past 3 months cy, I would be rich My ipod becomes my best friend when she comes on shift.

  10. #10
    Thanks everybody. Your replies have all been helpful.


    Unfortunately it is not as simple as me just asking the agency to replace her. Although I very much wish it was as that is the most obvious solution. There is nobody to replace her with. It took almost 9 months to permanently hire somebody for this position as finding RNs who do home care here is like looking for gold in gravel pit (I don't know why I just wrote that..what a stupid analogy. But a true one). It's even more rare to find one willing to do nights. And my funding requires that the night shift be an RN. If I ask the agency not to send her, it will be back to using relief staff (which the agency rarely can provide anyway) and me asking one of my parents to cover 2-3 nights a week, which my funding won't cover. I am trying to avoid having my parents do it when I can as physically it is getting more difficult for them. While I wish this wasn't the case, this is the situation I am in right now with caregivers. So this is the main reason perhaps that I let it go on longer than I should. While it has been very stressful to deal with her unloading on me, it is also very stressful not having somebody to cover these shifts. As I mentioned she has been covering day shifts too--which adds to my stress but the reality is if she didn't take the shifts, they would fall on my family. Oh geez now I am the one doing the venting

    Anyways this is the main reason I was trying to come up with a way to resolve this informally. Although its looking like that might not be possible. I don't want to have to let her go. But I was having a hard time finding a way to bring the subject up without offending or hurting her. I find it difficult to deal with any kind of face to face confrontation. It is even harder for me when I am virtually 100% physically dependent upon the person I will be confronting. And I use the word confronting because this is how she will take it. Argh. But I have gotten some good ideas in this thread as to what to say to her. Something Skippy said about her maybe not realizing how much stress she is causing me might very well be true. I never thought about that. But she does get so wrapped up in herself and her problems so its likely she is unaware. I do think she just considers herself as being friendly. But yes its true that she isn't there to be my friend.

    As far as the agency having a policy, I have no doubt that they do. However as I wrote in my first post, the supervisor all but brushed me off when she finally met with me. I did bring this to her attention on more than one occasion. I probably should have been more assertive with her but assertiveness is not one of my strengths. Not the first time this has happened with this supervisor or others in this agency. However, that is a topic for another thread. Managing caregivers and dealing with this agency has become the bane of my existence....

    Technically the agency hires and fires but I have a say. I sit in on interviews for new or internal staff they are considering to work with me. This works really well when they actually have somebody to interview. Unfortunately the number of qualified applicants to interview has remained low even with the downturn in the economy. My involvement in interviews and having the right to veto who they send me is something new (since January) that took a long time to implement. But I am still pretty much removed from the human resource end of things.

    I think I am going to call the supervisor again today and do as KLD suggests and ask if they can provide her with counselling. I know that her agency does have an employee assistance program that I am guessing should include a limited amount of free counselling. This is standard in most benefit packages here. However I am not feeling too hopeful of actually getting anywhere with the agency. But I will just have to be firm about this.

    Thanks again everybody for the helpful replies. I'll post here how it goes with the agency.

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