A private nurse or caregiver, or personal assistant of any kind, often gets close to the person for whom they work, by necessity. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does sometimes lead to them feeling like it's more of a friendship than a job and they can start taking advantage of the situation – leaving early, coming in a little bit late, being a little more expectant when they ask for time off.

At the same time, many employers of these kinds of services have limited income and not much bargaining power, and they might be quite dependent on the worker. So, from their perspective, when they find someone who does a good job for them, keeping that worker happy can become their primary goal.

What are some effective ways (some good language to use) to push back against corner-cutting employees and reestablish a more appropriate power dynamic, while (hopefully) not losing the employee?

  • +1 already. (1) The question needs to be narrowed down. Is the employee sourced from an agency or free-lance? (2) I ask for this clarification, because if the employee is free-lance, the physical dependence of the employer on employee can be....frightening, if things go wrong.
    – user1760
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 21:32
  • To Passerby: Bradley and Vylix (sorry, I'm not sure why the AT sign is not working for me in comments) articulated nicely the two thoughts I had in response to your comment. Vylix, US-Midwest. Also, the advantage taking I mentioned in the OP is what I had in mind as corner-cutting: "leaving early, coming in a little bit late, being a little more expectant when they ask for time off." ab2, That's a good/fair question and point. It is more of a freelance position than agency-sourced. Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 0:35

2 Answers 2


Actions speak louder than words. (these actions may not always apply, but it's a good foundation to establish a solid routine on paper and can be used throughout).

Being a care-worker previously, my boss was the client. He would pay our wages and provide the jobs that were required of us. So, sometimes other care-workers would become a little too relaxed within the role (because he was paraplegic and was only ever in his bedroom, we didn't have much outside observation). I know you've asked for language per say, but what he did was put a system in place where they needed to follow and a routine ensued.

Create Accountability

We had a system in place, which in turn would create accountability for our work. Ensuring we were on time, ensuring everything got done and we know who did it. As easy as it sounds just create a checklist, both daily and weekly. I'm not too sure how your caring is handled (mine was in his home), so there was always something to be done.

Firstly, have the checklist and list all the daily activities that must be done, well daily (I know caring is very meticulous and this should pretty much exist already). The person doing those activities will then sign them off as and when they're done and you both sign them off at the end of the day (that way they know they can go home and you know that they have done enough).

You would also have a weekly checklist (i.e. cleaning around the house, food shopping etc, simple admin work.. or whatever it is you have to do within the week) and that would get signed off only by the client at the end of the week, but the caregivers would still sign them off as and when they do them.

If, the caregivers want to leave early and you check the checklists and they haven't done enough (either weekly jobs or daily jobs), just ask them nicely:

Seeing as you have another 15 minutes left, can you do XYZ for me on the daily/weekly checklist and sign it off please, then we'll both sign you off for today? it'll make it easier for [enter caregiver name here] in the morning/afternoon.

You could also have the opportunity to praise and reward them, too:

Looking at both checklists, I've noticed you've done a-lot this week and I thank you for that, I'm happy for you to leave 15 minutes early today if you wish.

Ensure, you do all of this in a calm and collected way. They would have no reason to go against your wishes. Praise is key if they're doing good work, as you said you don't have bargaining power, but you can give them the benefits they're already taking advantage of, if they earn them rather than feel obligated to have them.

This way, the care is run as a routine and there are things that need to be done, you both know that because it's written down and should be followed. It's not so much reliant on your relationship but simple admin. You don't have to be their enemy or their friend, per say, but you can reward them for the work they're doing and ask them to do more when they're not pulling their weight. Remember, it's a job and they should respect a professional relationship between both the client and the caregiver.


  • You both know who is doing what, when and how the workload is being shared.
  • You have ammo if you need to speak to anyone about the work they're doing without it being about you but about the evidence in front of you.
  • With a limited income, it really doesn't cost too much.


  • If you haven't got a routine like this in place, it'll take a little getting used to. (i.e. ensuring that it's printed off, signed and filed consistently).
  • It's a little more work for the patient, but depending on your caregiver turnover (if it's high) it would put the routine in place faster (as long as you're sticking with it, your caregivers will).

This is a fairly hard question to answer as it stands, as two actually unrelated things are combined.

  1. About encouraging investment: Honesty is always best.
    I think people merit good feedback on their efforts. Both positive and negative. For example, a verbal well-placed compliment will go far to motivate a good worker. Especially in demanding positions as described by you. Factors like perceived dependency should not influence this (but indeed easier said than done).
  2. About cutting corners or worse: You cannot change people.
    Persons with the mindset that enables them to abuse will seldom change their behaviour when confronted. Luckily the professions you mention should not attract such personalities too much.

So my advice?
Be honest, warn at need, terminate if hopeless. Avoid dysfunctional situations. Be strong and do not ignore bad behaviour to avoid having to change familiar caretakers. It facilitates abuse. It never works. (And if needed first build a case, gather an admissible paper trail when you need to provide grounds for termination)

  • ...why the down-vote?
    – Bookeater
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 22:26

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