Family Dynamics & Limit Setting

GOAL: To help Participants become more aware of the impact of serious illness on the family and how the family copes under stress.

OBJECTIVES: Upon completion of this session, the participant should:

  • Have a better understanding of what is meant by the family system.
  • Be aware of the possible impact a volunteer or staff member has on the family system and how a volunteer/staff member may become part of that system.
  • Understand the need for setting limitations and establishing boundaries in relationships with patients and families.
  • Be aware of common ways that families cope.
  • Understand the Volunteer/staff member role in the dysfunctional family.
  • Be familiar with the signs of abuse and neglect in families and the procedures for handling such situations.

Boundaries help to keep us safe. As humans, we have both physical and psychological boundaries. When volunteering, it is worthwhile to think about your personal boundaries before you begin working with patients and families. Maintaining professional boundaries and setting appropriate limits is a challenge for all caregivers. Self-awareness and a willingness to reach out for supervision are two things that will help you to negotiate challenges with boundaries.

Hospice Volunteers - 3 Guidelines for Good Decision-Making

  • Is this meeting my need or the patient's/family's need?
  • Am I action with my defined role?
  • Am I using my Team effectively? (Is there someone else on the Hospice Team who should be involved in addressing this?)

Often patients and families are not looking for you to fix thier current situation, but for you to be present, listen, and acknowledge what they are going through.

Understanding Family Systems
Here is a table comparing open and closed family systems.

Signs and Symptoms of Over-Involvement
Click here to read a one page description of the symptoms of over-involvement.

Tips for avoiding "Fix It Syndrome"

  • Let go. Let go of that fix it mentality. Set it free. Be the very best you can be. Know that the service you are providing is magic. Know its appreciated even if the person never says thank you.
  • Define your role. Your role is not to fix what's wrong. Your role is to advocate for someone who can no longer do it themself. You role is to keep someone safe, and clean and well-cared for.
  • rust in yourself. Trust that you are enough. You are perfect just as you are. Accept you are good enough and what you are doing has true value.
  • our job is not to fix what's wrong. You can't fix someone who is ill or has a chronic illness. Get out of the "fix it mentality" and get into the "I'm enough" state of mind. Today I will do what I can do.

Click here to read “The Fix It Mentality and How It Leads to Caregiver Burnout” by Cindy Laverty


Additional Links

Recommended Library Resources

  • Video: The Gift of Time (DVD)