7. How Patients see Home Health Aides – The Aide as Friend

In this series, we are looking at the roles care receivers project onto their aides or caretakers. In this blog, we will look at the Aide as Friend.

Most of us have a specific label or pigeon-hole for somebody who hangs around your house and helps out from time to time. This label is “friend,” and is often misused or misunderstood, as when we talk about “work” friends or “activity” friends.  These are people with whom we may share certain pursuits, but whose real interest in us is more transitory or distant.  Likewise, when someone is in your house, behaving in an affable way, we may mistake their conduct for friendship.  What is the difference?

  1. Real friends choose and enjoy our company and we, theirs.
  2. Real friends share confidences and trust.
  3. Real friends care, after hours.
  4. Real friends expect and accept reciprocity.
  5. Real friends genuinely care about or even love us, and vice versa.

None of these goes with the job description of Home health aide. They are not expected to enjoy our company or to entertain us, share confidences, or be available after hours.  Their job is to provide services for which they are paid.  Over time, they may come to like, though rarely love, us.

Many caregivers feel insulted or hurt when their expectations of friendship are rebuffed. Caregivers may be uncomfortable when they are not sharing their food or facilities, or are enjoying television, DVDs or music of their own taste.  Relax.  The aide is NOT a friend and shouldn’t expect the benefits of friendship.  Obviously, we want them to feel comfortable in our dwellings, but not “at home.”  Think about how your (good) friends behave when with you and you will see the difference.

The opposite can also occur, although less frequently, when the Aide steps over the boundaries to confide or inquire about intimate things, attempt to borrow money, ask to be excused from obligations and responsibilities or help themselves to food or other objects. One needs to put a stop to it at once firmly, though politely.  Once the boundaries are breached, it is very hard to return to the normal aide/care receiver relationship.  Many a good working relationship has been ruined when pseudo-friendship intruded.  Keep it simple.  Keep it cool.  Keep it professional.


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