Professional boundaries for Disability Support Workers (DSW) can be tricky business but establishing and maintaining them is central to our work. Crossing boundaries or having blurry lines can cause confusion and actual harm to the people we serve.
At WIN, we want our staff to understand their role and to ensure that the individuals we serve benefit from our relationship with them. We need to develop a relationship and a strong connection, while maintaining professional boundaries. This is not easy to do, and may even sound contradictory, but as David Hingsburger explains in this video, it is crucial that we get this right.
That’s Where We Start – Isn’t it?
At the end of the video David says, “that’s where we start, isn’t it?” He was talking about the stark social isolation that many people with intellectual disabilities live with. THAT is our job! THAT is where we start. We start with the end in mind. Our role is to support individuals to develop natural supports – systems, supports, people, and friendships that are not paid. It is so crucial that it is actually our primary purpose.
Our work – whether we are helping an individual with performing hygiene, preparing a meal, or washing dishes is a task that needs to be performed, but what is the end we need to keep in mind? That end is always to promote independence to support the individual to reach their potential and develop their own unpaid social network.
Our primary purpose for being in the individual’s life, is to support the individual to establish and build their community. We support them by filling in the gaps where support is needed, never over supporting, always respectful of the individual’s right to build and develop genuine friendships, never misrepresenting who we are to them and our role in their lives.
We are not their friends, we are not their family. We are friendly. We are caring, and we care enough to start with the end in mind always striving not to create dependence but to build independence.