The Gift of Connection

Our friend Fran is back with another post from the care recipient’s perspective, this time about gift giving. It’s important to note that she’s talking about little, every day kindnesses, not high-value gifts like jewelry, cash, or cars  – those are a completely different story.

Last Friday my home health aide/homemaker brought me coffee, as she does every week. Nice, right? Apparently not!

Blog Art(1)

I thanked her as always, and she put a finger to her lips and pulled me into a corner. It happened that my med nurse was also here replenishing my machine, and she works for the same agency that employs Mary (not her real name). The nurse might report Mary for bringing me coffee. Because… aides are not supposed to do “favors” for clients.

Mary was previously called on the carpet for having my phone number, and those of other clients. She uses them to call with questions while grocery shopping, or to let us know if she’s running late. Also against the rules. All communications must go via the office, including shopping questions.

Why? you might ask, as did I. The reason is the agency does not want their staff to form “personal relationships” with their clients. Counterintuitive much?

My relationship with Mary is, necessarily, intimate. She helps me get in and out of the shower, dries me off and then helps me dress. She cleans every inch of my home. In many ways there are “no secrets.” It is impossible not to form a personal relationship!

I look forward to Mary’s “visits” twice a week. She is engaging and pleasant and we find many things to talk and joke about. I got her a little gift when I was on vacation in Florida. She brings me coffee and muffins. I recently bought her a book, Taoism For Beginners, because she expressed curiosity about my spiritual orientation. Any of the above could endanger her job.

As a client it offends me that Mary’s agency thinks of me as a “widget.” It bothers Mary, too, as it does many of her colleagues. Most of them – the best ones – ignore the “rules.”  We, the clients. are their “partners in crime” – an additional intimacy. The notion that they take their jobs in their hands in performing extra acts of kindness and forming personal relationships with us is absurd, and frankly has no place in a “care” agency.

The term “caregiving” is comprised of two key words, both of which any caregiver is dedicated to fulfilling. Caring and giving combine to create a connection that no caregiving relationship can do without.

Care, plus giving, equals connection. It is an enriching equation, and one that should be cultivated rather than artificially and arbitrarily limited.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top