A commonly asked question is can a support worker be a friend? If your goal is to help the person you support to build friendships, then my view is that the answer needs to be no.
There can be a murky invisible line between friends and support workers because they can feel very similar can’t they. This diagram shows the similarities and differences.
I encourage supports to not to say they are friends because if they say that they are, then that reduces the person with disability’s motivation and the support team’s motivation to find new friends that are not paid supports.
I feel supports need to be clear about their role with the person. But that can be tricky. Sometimes the only people in the person’s life are paid supports and family.
Imagine being told that the person you thought was your friend, isn’t. That could be really painful. So helping the person to understand that supports are not friends needs to be done carefully and with empathy.
Research on friendships shows they make us healthier, happier and safer. These are compelling reasons to not be satisfied with supports being considered as friends. We need to make the effort to find real ones.
Get support to learn and implement this framework to increase the likelihood of your family member with a disability forming friendships.