When You Need to Establish Boundaries as a Caregiver

by James E. Miller

When the needs of someone you care for are great, or when you’ve become part of the other’s life in so many ways, you may desire to draw as close as possible. You may be inclined to keep that person always at the forefront of your thoughts, always within easy reach of their grasp. You may find yourself almost merging with that other person, so whatever happens to them happens to you.

Identifying so completely with another is an ideal some caregivers have sought. But it is far less than ideal.

To be a good caregiver, you must maintain your separateness. While you may care deeply for that other person, you are still your own unique self. There are times when it makes good sense to guard your privacy, to preserve your other relationships. There are times when it’s natural to give yourself a reprieve by asking another to help you.

In recognizing that at times you feel overloaded or overwhelmed, and in being responsible to act to correct that, you will be doing the most caring thing possible.

By establishing boundaries about what you’re prepared and able to do, you can help the one you’re caring for, while taking care of yourself. And by creating a separate space for yourself, you’ll help ensure that the one you care for will have their own separate space.

Once you have established clear boundaries, you can approach one another with a freedom and an honesty, and you can be the closer for having stayed apart.


 James E. Miller has written a beautifully illustrated gift book entitled The Caregiver’s Book: Caring for Another, Caring for Yourself, from which this excerpt has been taken. You can find out more about this resource, with its full-color photography, many quotations, poetic writing, and pages of helpful suggestions here.