When Caring leads to Love

Is it OK to love your clients?

I say yes.

Before you report me to the State Ethics committee, I’m not talking about romantic entanglements or inappropriate sexual contact or even the violation of healthy boundaries.

But in the health care field we’ve always been told “don’t get too attached” to the clients that we care for.  But doesn’t this go against human nature?

Heart Leaf

Photo by Niffty via Flickr

Most of the nurses, social workers, home health aides, and other allied health professionals I know have gone into this work because they care about people and want to help them.  When you provide intimate, day to day care for human beings, the kind that eases suffering and reduces loneliness, and you hear someone’s personal stories, share lots of laughter and a few tears, you naturally come to love them. 

And they love you, too.

Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of The Eden Alternative, has written about this in his book, “What Are Old People For: How Elders Will Save the World.”

He proposes that instead of denying the love that health care workers have for their clients, organizations acknowledge and support it.

To do so would ensure that such attachments are healthy and appropriate, and provide support for a worker’s grief when a beloved client dies.

Today, the love and affection workers feel is often forced underground, leading to stress and isolation for the worker, and could ultimately contribute to burn-out and turn-over.  

Can you imagine how relieved our health care workforce might be to have permission to love, and have support and supervision to do so every day, on the job, in the open?

How much might this improve care for the ill and our Elders?


Lisa Kendall is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with advanced certification in clinical gerontology who works in home care, has a private practice in Ithaca, NY, and is an “Eden at Home” Educator.  You can get more information on The Eden Alternative and Eden at Home at www.edenalt.org

Contact me if your organization would like to host an “Eden at Home” Certified Trainer Workshop!


2 Responses to “When Caring leads to Love”

  • As a caregiver for my mother-in-law on hospice this last year. I have witnessed many workers falling in love with this wonderful woman. She refers to herself as a burden, I rephase what is happening as an opportunity to share the love in a relationship everyday. I do believe we all have gifts. You are sharing , in your article, that it is great to embrace these gifts when we care of others. Thank you!

  • lisakend:

    The opportunity to both give and receive care is seen as the antitode to helplessness, one of the three plagues responsible for most of the suffering of our Elders and their care partners. Imagine how blessed your mother-in-law would feel if she could truly hear the many ways she’s enriched the lives of those around her, even as she struggled with the apparent limitations of her illness! You’ve touched the heart of one of the essential truths of caring relationships – that we all have gifts to share. Thank you for sharing this insight from your own experience!!

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