I was in a conversation this morning about boundaries. The intent there was about the importance of having and enforcing them. To put up walls, so to speak, to keep one’s self from getting too involved or to simply keep others from running us over.
Let’s start with good boundaries. These are the limits we put on ourselves, and in turn, others that protect us. For example, I had a landlord who would text me about the weed (singular) in my front yard which violated the HOA rules at 2 AM. I had to set a healthy boundary with him requesting that all non-emergency communication be conducted during normal business hours. He wasn’t always good at it, but got better with redirection. This boundary was healthy and set limits regarding when we could communicate. I did my best to respect the same for him. We can do the same with family, friends, neighbors, or other people who tend to run us over or take advantage of us. We can start a conversation with “I just need to vent. I don’t want any solutions, ideas, or commentary. I just need someone to listen”. This sets the boundary in the beginning as to what you are willing to accept in the conversation. If they violate that boundary, you can thank them for their information and end the chat, reminding them that their ONLY job was to listen. In the same way, starting a conversation with “I need some advice” lets people know that you’re looking for their input. Healthy boundaries don’t need to be big and scary and limiting. They can be as simple as stating our expectations and holding people accountable.
Sometimes we use boundaries to protect ourselves from everyone and everything. We put up barriers more than boundaries to keep others from getting too close, from knowing what is going on in our lives, and to close ourselves off. I’ve heard families say that you can’t mention a loved one’s diagnosis in any conversation (even with their doctor). I’ve heard co-workers say that getting to know clients and their families violates boundaries and makes it difficult to work with them (which I FULLY disagree with, but that’s a blog for another day). Where is the line between a healthy boundary and an unhealthy barrier?
I think a question to ask is how this boundary is impacting me. Is it helping me stay healthy or is it putting me into denial? Is it putting limits on the people who tend to overstep, overbear, or overrun, or is it simply hiding me from everyone? Is it empowering me or overpowering me? Is it hurting others or helping? Sometimes new boundaries can appear hurtful to others. This is especially true if it is stopping those who have been happily walking all over us in the past. People don’t really love when we stand up for ourselves. Too bad. If they love us, they will understand and respect our request. If not, then the boundaries can be strengthened further as needed.
Boundaries can help us live a healthier, calmer, and more peaceful life while dealing with dementia. Dementia knows no boundaries and will continuously push them. Taking some semblance of control in establishing some healthy boundaries can help us set up some parameters to guide others in our life toward helping us on our journey or stepping aside and letting us move forward as we need.