I believe it is true that we each really do want to be helpful and to help others in need. Some of us naturally fall into that role while others find themselves pushed into it. Either way being a helper can become a bit of a trap.
It is a trap in two ways; we can over care for others and in a real way disable them; and secondly we can care for ways that create a codependent need in ourselves to be seen as a care provider.
The sneaky trap is the over care ambush.
We are doing our level best to serve the one needing care and we give too much care thinking all along we are really helping. We see our family member or client as unable. We over do the care and provide care that limits the person’s ability to do some things for themselves. Let me give you and example.
Early in my work with people I have an elderly clients who needed some support physically. He needed a lift out of the bed or chair before he could walk under his own steam to the washroom. Well, he began to ‘lean on me’ literally. Being a novice helper I felt as if I were ‘really’ helping. One day his wife and I were chatting and we notice his ability to walk under his own stream had significantly reduced. It was then I recognized my over helping was actually a hindrance and more was contributing to his disability!
I began to pull back a little and gave him space and encouragement to move on his own. It took several weeks before he had recovered his body strength and stamina but he did. He learnt that he could still get around his home and I learned how to provide just enough help and support.
I realized it was my ‘job’ as a care provider to give only as much care as the person needed; not too little in a way that could cause injury; nor to much in a way that could cause co-dependence.
As care providers we need to be able to recognize this delicate balance between under caring or over caring always looking for that optimal sweet spot that honours the dignity and ability of one receiving care free of codependent tangles.