Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Care Partner Wednesday--The "How" of Boundaries

Some people are good at the boundaries thing.

When you approach them about doing something, you know they will carefully consider it.They will look at their schedule, the demands of their family time and whether they are actually drawn to an activity. They may pray about it. When they come back to you with an answer, you have the confidence that they have thoroughly considered it. If the answer is "no" there is no sting, because you know it was given careful consideration. If they say "yes," they are there for you in that activity one hundred percent. They know how to put up boundaries, and how to function well within them.

I am not that person.

As a people pleaser, I have taken on far too much over the years, and driven myself to exhaustion trying to fulfil my obligations. Then I have gone to the other extreme, and said "no" to everything because I was recovering from my over-extension. I have gotten involved in activites that weren't my gift at all, and missed out on opportunities I should have taken.

I'm not good at boundaries.

Healthy boundaries are not walls, but gates that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden.Lydia H. Hall

Because the role of care partner can be so demanding, learning how to set boundaries can literally save your life. This is especially true for full-time care partners,  but even if you are being a friend and visiting an elderly person, boundaries are important. Without them, no one is benefiting.

How do you set a boundary? Here are a few suggestions from someone who has struggled with this.

1) Spend some time at a quiet moment assessing the situation. What are you doing now? What is being asked? How is what you are doing affecting the other relationships in your life?

2) Think about the person you are serving. Is what they are asking coming from a practical need ("I need help to get to my doctor's appointment.") or are they expressing something else? ("I wish you'd visit more often." may mean something like "I'm lonely.")

3) Is this something that you should be doing, or should it come from someone else? Sometimes what you need to do is not what is requested, but to find more people to help.

4) Listen to what is not being said. Complaints and demands may come from actual need, or may  be an indication of someone dealing with the challenges of many losses. Maybe what you need to give is a listening ear and understanding.

5) Come with your speech prepared. If you need to say "no", think through your reasons and have alternative suggestions. Listen. But don't be manipulated into changing your mind.

6) It bears repeating--Good fences make good neighbours. If you don't set boundaries in a care partner situation, it can lead to an unhealthy, co-dependant relationship. If that happens, no one is happy, or is properly served. It can also lead to burn-out on your part, which can affect you physically, emotionally and in every other way. You will have nothing to give if you burn out.

7) Be prepared for fall-out. Your loved one may not be happy with what you have said. You may have to live with that for a while.

8) Pray. While you are assessing the situation, before talking to the person, while talking to them and after. God will give you wisdom and backbone and patience to endure.

I know this is possible, because I have gotten better at this. You can, too.

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: How has setting a boundary made your relationship better in the long run with your loved one?

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