“Hey, Gladys! Get me a beer!”
A friend asked me what would I do if someone in my extended family – let’s call him Uncle Ralph – talked that way to Ben’s caregiver, Gladys.
I was stumped for a moment, since that has never happened.
But it was a good question and highlighted the importance of knowing where the line should be drawn between keeping the relationship with your caregiver friendly but also professional.
Of course, “get me a beer” is way offside regardless of where that line might be.
So, first things first. At the end of the day, you need to remember that Gladys is an employee of yours even if you’re not directly responsible for paying her.
This sets up the dynamic of an employer/employee relationship as well as the responsibilities and respectful behaviours that go along with it.
Hopefully, it’s a wonderful relationship where Gladys loves her job, she actually DOES a wonderful job, and your child or loved one enjoys being with her.
When it’s working well, it’s give-and-take, where sometimes she does “extra” things just because she wants to help even though those things may be outside of her job description.
The other important “employee” aspect to respect is never forgetting that her workplace is your home.
That means Uncle Ralph needs to know that when Gladys is present, it’s not just your home any longer.
At a minimum, Gladys requires a safe and positive working environment so she can bring her best every day.
Your extended family (and friends) must understand that Gladys’ focus and sole responsibility is to your child or loved one. She is part of the support team even though it might feel that she is part of the family.
In that role, she has a well-defined set of tasks which doesn’t include getting anyone a beer.
That’s not to say she can’t interact with others and participate in family events, as an example, but she’s there to assist only one person. That’s the focal point.
Gladys is NOT the “hired help” (I find I have a lot of words in quotes in this post)
I hope you know what I mean by that. If not, look it up. It’s not a nice term.
Gladys is a person like you and me. She is an equal. As a caregiver, she has a very important and demanding job.
How you manage the relationship, and deal with problems, is dependent on how you view Gladys. Hired help? Hopefully not!
Maintaining an arm’s length relationship is challenging. You want Gladys to be comfortable at the same time you need to be comfortable in your own home.
In the Uncle Ralph example, you need to have a chat with him – make sure that he knows this is not a person who is here to wait on him.
This is a person who we respect and who makes your life and your loved one’s life easier.
The flip side is Uncle Ralph has to understand that this is also a professional relationship.
You don’t want him telling Gladys that you were afraid of the Easter Bunny until you were 14.
Revealing personal issues may compromise the professional atmosphere.
We’ve created a 19-tips caregiver guide to help you through the whole process. If you want to learn more, download it free right here!