5 Tips for Setting Caregiving Boundaries

Ashley Stevens
Written by Ashley Stevens on Fri Dec 10 2021.
5 Tips for Setting Caregiving Boundaries

The tensions were high. I began to tell my dear friend, “This has to stop! It is time for me to start setting boundaries.” As the words came from my mouth, the silence in the room thickened. I felt all the anxiety take over my body. I asked myself, “Should I have even bothered trying to set a boundary with them?”

The answer is a resounding YES. Turns out, my friend had no clue that I was in dire need of a break. My friend also had no clue what a boundary actually was...

What are Boundaries

Boundaries are those little invisible barriers that we establish within our relationships and within ourselves. Boundaries are protection points. They allow us to set limits around ourselves and the things that we value and need.

According to family therapy practitioner, Michael P. Nichols, in “The Essentials of Family Therapy,” Nichols writes about 3 Categories of Personal Boundaries:

  1. Rigid

  2. Clear

  3. Diffuse

1. Rigid

When your boundaries are too strict, and there is little contact with outside subsystems. This can lead to isolation.

2. Clear

When there is a balance between knowing how to communicate limits & receiving others’ boundaries. This allows for autonomy as well as connected relationships

3. Diffuse

When your boundaries are too penetrable with little independence. This can lead to enmeshment within relationships.

In essence, you don’t want your boundaries to be too strict or too penetrable.

The idea is to find, what I like to call, your Boundaries Sweet Spot! The ability to strike a balance between rigid and diffuse is the key. You do not want your boundaries to be too strict, where you shut everyone out and isolate your support network; But you also don’t want your boundaries to be too loose, where anyone can walk over you.

Clear boundaries = the sweet spot. Clear boundaries are healthy. Clear boundaries allow for you to effectively communicate your needs and values while maintaining a relationship, and developing your own sense of confidence.

Why Set Boundaries?

Now you may be asking, “Why do we have to set boundaries? Why is this important?”

Well, I’ve got a question for you also: As a caregiver, have you ever felt GUILTY having to tell someone, “NO?

This is all too common. You identify a need and you’re ready to set that limit (or boundary) but as soon as it is time to do so, you feel a rush of guilt and shame.

We set boundaries so that we learn to communicate our needs, gain confidence, and let go of that feeling of guilt.

There is nothing shameful in drawing a line and setting a boundary. There is no shame in saying, NO.

Setting clear boundaries allows for you to identify your own values. It also allows you to strengthen and fulfill your self-care needs. Setting boundaries is a critical part of self-care and can contribute to your overall wellbeing.

“Without boundaries, we feel depleted, taken advantage of, taken for granted, or intruded upon. Whether it’s in work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout,” - Dana Nelson, Ph.D.

5 Tips for Setting Clear Caregiver Boundaries

  1. Identify what is valuable to you and what your specific need is. This first step is essential. By identifying your values and needs, you will be able to speak clearly to what your boundary request is. You will also want to determine who you need to communicate these values and needs to. It may be a friend, a family member, or maybe an internal boundary within yourself.

  2. Write down what your boundary is and how you plan to express it. This is the fun part! Take a moment to think about how you want to frame your boundary around your values and needs.

  3. Communicate this boundary to the recipient with clarity & directness. This can sometimes be tricky, but don’t psych yourself out. Be sure to use “I” statements instead of “You” statements when communicating your boundary. For example: “I feel that I am at capacity right now, and I am unable to take on any additional requests due to caregiving.”

  4. Confirm understanding from the recipient. Don’t just walk away. Be sure that the individual truly received your boundary and had a clear understanding. Effective communication is key.

  5. Establish consequences if the boundaries are not upheld. Last, but certainly not least, be sure that consequences are determined and established in the event the boundaries are not upheld. Without communicating this to the recipient, you leave room for excuses and rejected boundaries.

This boundaries workbook was created just for you. Throughout this workbook, you will be guided through the steps to setting clear boundaries & gaining confidence.

Maintaining Your Boundaries

“What if the recipient does not accept my boundaries?” This is a frequently asked question and happens often. An important consideration to keep in mind is that the secret to setting clear and healthy boundaries is also being able to accept others’ boundaries.

If the recipient rejects your boundaries, it may be because they are not well versed or knowledgeable about boundaries. The recipient may have limited experience with setting boundaries, therefore, they reject yours.

Just because someone rejects your boundaries, doesn’t mean you give in! Maintain your boundary and re-communicate the boundary to them directly:

  1. “Setting boundaries is new for me too. Let me tell you about why I need support in this decision.”

  2. “I am at a place in life where I need to communicate my values & needs, and they have to be respected.”

  3. “You are welcome to reject my boundary, but I will continue to have this standard. The consequence is _____.”

It is certainly not easy. And often, family and friends will not understand. Sometimes, relationships may even be disengaged. So you have to ask yourself: “Am I truly ready to set this boundary? Am I ready to put my needs and values first, to protect myself?”

If the answer is yes, then be prepared for potential rejections and sometimes difficult conversations with loved ones.

Recapping, Shall We?

Setting clear boundaries is not always easy. It can be extremely tough work as a caregiver. The great part is, you don’t have to do it alone. Carewell is like family and can support you through these tough decisions and conversations. If you have questions about this topic, please reach out to the friendly Caregiving Specialists. You can reach them at (855) 855-1666 or send an email to support@carewell.com.

Ultimately, you want to begin practicing how to set your boundaries. When you do, you will begin to feel more confident and empowered. You will take control of your life and your loved ones’ care! And who knows, you may even teach your family & friends how they can set boundaries too.

References:

  1. Nelson, D. (2016, December 8th). Self-Care 101: Setting healthy boundaries. Retrieved from http://www.dananelsoncounseling.com/blog/self-care-setting-healthy- boundaries/

  2. Nichols, M.P. (2011). The Essentials of Family Therapy.

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Ashley Stevens
Ashley Stevens

Ashley Stevens is a gerontologist and master’s level social worker (MSW, LCSWA). Her graduate certification is focused on aging & dementia care. Ashley also holds a license in social work practice & therapeutic interventions. You can find the Dementia Advocate offering brain tips and caregiving solutions on her blog platform, http://www.thedementiaguru.com/ https://www.instagram.com/thedementiaguru, https://www.instagram.com/thedementiaguru To begin the journey to setting clear caregiving boundaries, you can download the Boundaries Workbook https://payhip.com/b/SjsQD