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Rene's Advice on Support Worker Etiquette

Here’s some advice about support worker etiquette from Rene, an ex-Caregiver now working as a Coordinator for Care on Call. Here’s Rene:


Today I’m going to discuss how to create a trusting and pleasant client/carer relationship. This will help you build trust with clients from day one, even with the more complex personalities you come across.  

As support workers, we often go into a client’s house as a complete stranger, not knowing what to expect. I’ve learned to remember that the client is usually feeling the same way, except they’re in their own personal environment. Something I find helpful as a support worker is putting myself in their shoes – I know I’d like the carer to make eye contact, introduce themselves and smile. Although some of the work we do may be clinical in nature, to the client it’s all personal, as it’s all happening in their home environment.

If you are meeting a client for the first time, it’s important to remember that first impressions last, and a good one can mean the difference between enjoying or not enjoying your work. I recommend avoiding standoffish behaviour – the client is vulnerable and they could find this hostile. Instead, introduce yourself and what you’re there to do with a smile. They might seem unsure, and it’s up to you to reassure them. This means asking them to let you know what they need help with, discussing your experience as a caregiver, even offering a hot drink. Usually, talking to a client will give clues about their personality and their preferences. In this role, I’ve had to learn to adapt my personality to several different clients in a day – it may be hard but it’s part of the job.

One thing I’d recommend is taking your time – this is best for you and the client. Rushed situations can decrease morale, and lead to an unhealthy relationship. If you ever feel overwhelmed, make sure to let your coordinator know – sometimes even the smallest change can improve your work wellbeing. Another recommendation I have is learning to be tactful. Without this skill, a caregiver can come across as bossy. It’s all about having the right tone and attitude to work with the client. If you’re going out of sight (to the laundry, for example), let the client know what you’re doing, especially if it involves touching them in any way.

The key to being a support worker is right in the title – supporting our clients. This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything a client says or does, and it’s always helpful to advise on safe & good practice, but we have to avoid forcing our own opinions into the mix. I’ve found that it’s easy for support workers to become emotionally involved, especially as most people in the field have a high level of empathy. If there are times where you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, an easy trick to remove yourself from the situation is using the loo. Take a breath and remind yourself it’s okay, there’s only so much you can do, and that home is waiting after work. For me, this helps give perspective.

Thanks so much for your tips & advice Rene. Ngā mihi nui.