Jun 01, 2021

When does gift-giving from a resident to a care worker cross the line?

Working in aged care care, so much time and effort is devoted to ensuring residents are given the very best care by the people that care for them.

So it makes sense that on some occasions, recipients of care may want to demonstrate their appreciation by giving a small gift or delicious little treats.

Whether that be something they have made themselves, a bunch of flowers from the garden, or perhaps something they’ve gone out to buy especially for you.

Whatever the gift may be, it’s a gift from the heart, something to thank you for the care you have provided them.

Recently, this discussion was raised in HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook, when a group member posted about a small gift she received from a client and their family.

Quickly the comments were filled with differing perspectives and opinions.

Many people found the acceptance of any form of gift inappropriate, and in fact against their company policy, while others felt that the acceptance of a small token was totally fine.

Is it ever ok to accept gifts from residents/clients and when does gift-giving overstep the boundary? And furthermore, does anyone actually write the rule book and is there any governing body for this type of gift-giving?

For nurses, given they are bound by the professional code of conduct from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, they do have to comply with the  Professional Code of Conduct for nurses as published by AHPRA – see below; 

4.5       Financial arrangements and gifts

It is necessary, to be honest, and transparent with people. To ensure there is no perception of actual or personal gain for the nurse, nurses must:

  1.     when providing or recommending services, discuss with the person all fees and charges expected to result from a course of treatment in a manner appropriate to the professional relationship, and not exploit people’s vulnerability or lack of knowledge

  2.     only accept token gifts of minimal value that are freely offered and report the gifts in accordance with local policy

  3.     not accept, encourage or manipulate people to give, lend, or bequeath money or gifts that will benefit a nurse directly or indirectly

  4.     not become financially involved with a person who has or who will be in receipt of their care, for example through bequests, powers of attorney, loans and investment schemes, and

  5.     not influence people or their families to make donations, and where people seek to make a donation refer to the local policy.

Personal care workers on the other hand however do not have a representative board or professional code of conduct that they are bound to.

Hall & Willcox, an Australian based legal firm have written on this exact issue and have reported on their website that “a gift of a nominal value and given with good intention does not typically pose an issue”, however they note without a proper definition of what is considered a small gift like chocolates, as opposed to a gift of money or property, professional lines can be blurred.

Therefore it’s so important for aged care/home care providers to have this clearly documented and communicated to employees in policy and procedures documents so that you are not leaving it up to the interpretation of a carer.

It’s clear from the responses in the Aged Care Worker Support group that there are inconsistent views of what constitutes acceptable giving versus overstepping the line.

Much of the conversation in the post in the Support Group came down to personal morals and values, and less about company policies and procedures.

For example, if someone felt that it wasn’t right to accept a gift, regardless of the monetary value, then they should not accept the gift.

Other care workers mentioned that they were encouraged to accept small gifts and tokens from residents so as to not offend them but within certain parameters.

Flowers from the garden, things they had made and created for the carer were fine, presents and things of higher monetary value were not to be encouraged.

Several people also said that in their workplace, receiving gifts from residents was to be taken on a case by case basis, but anything gifted was to be reported to the manager so nothing could be misinterpreted.

If there are ever any questions about whether or not a gift should or can be accepted, always refer to company policy, and inform anyone who needs to be told of the gift, like your team leaders or manager.

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  1. Technically we are not supposed to accept anything, but when a family brings chocolate or flowers for the nurses to enjoy I think it would be the height of rudeness to decline! Similarly, when the residents knit a beanie or make some craft or art for staff it’s polite to accept with gratitude.

    Gifting valuables or money to staff is different though & would not be tolerated where I work. Families will often donate good clothing & mobility aids back to the facility for other residents when their loved ones passes, but staff are not to accept cash or valuables, no matter how insistent the family or resident may become.

  2. Once again l note my personal difference to accepted ideas. I and a lot of elderly people who grew up in the 1950s through 1960s gave gifts at Christmas.. i remember the man emptying the bins, delivering bread, milk even the “dunny” man ALL were given gifts from our family as well as neighbours. It was usually a bottle of beer or two or a nominal cash amount in an e envelope or something my parents chose as appropriate. Is this not really a token of appreciation for services or care given it was not a request for favours etc. If we want to give a gift at Christmas to Carer it is now considered illegal and can get a care worker sacked. Surely, as long as there is a reason to give gifts like Christmas (even exchange gifts) should be accepted as just what it is. It should NOT be
    a Monetary benefit to a Carer etc. but perfume or chocolates should be
    OK.

  3. Whether you work in aged care or work as a community support worker you should not accept any kind of gifts from clients

    1. I have worked in community homecare for over 20 years. There has always been a policy on accepting gifts at one point under the value of $20 was the norm without the need for reporting as xmas time always brought out the soap and flannel with crochet edge or chocolates and tins of cookies. clients love to gift careworkers at that time and refusal is insulting to them. Of course large gifts are not on and reporting is mandatory. As to the nay sayers I say bah humbug you are working with people who appreciate you and want to show it. Often careworkers gift clients with little gifts at xmas and they love it. So let’s keep our jobs from becoming devoid of these little moments of joy by over regulation and control by people who dont know.

  4. when working in aged care, at christmas time some Residents would give blocks of chocolates, a calendar or something they had made. If the value was deemed under $5 You did not have to declare it. I had one Angel offer Me $50 for helping Her. I told Her She already paid. As She got agitated I accepted the cash but took it straight to The Care Manager. We informed Her Daughter who Thanked Me for My Honesty

    1. Taking it to the Manager is the right thing to do.
      I am not so sure about informing the daughter. I have friends who do not want their family to know they are giving gifts because after all they want it all as part of their inheritance.
      So the ability to get joy and pleasure out of giving is non – existent when you grow old and are controlled by family .

  5. The employer should have some policy around gift giving so there are some clear boundaries to this. People who require the support of others are denied so much already, increased powerlessness, loss of voice, loss of so much control over their life. For goodness sake stop trying to deny them the simple joy of giving and showing there appreciation a normal aspect of life for many.

  6. Working in any Aged Care programs there should be clear policies in place for gift giving and receiving. When in doubt refer to your orientation manual or speak with your Manager. It’s not always easy to go by the book when your heart is telling you something else but for the sake of giving professional service to your client one must stay within the boundaries set out by the organisation’s policies. Both client and care giver are hopefully given orientation before commencing their duties which covers this topic.

  7. Gift giving to those in the political and journalistic professions etc might be of more interest and benefit. Researching gift giving to a group of workers who are so poorly paid and in the case of nurses, worked so hard, seems to be looking for the ‘low hanging fruit’. A pot of jam, a box of chocolates. You won’t find anyone reporting a free flights and accommodation and other types of ‘junkets’ or expensive gifts.
    How about some research into why we as a society do not value the work of carers and have no qualm about paying them so poorly.

  8. This is a subject which is relatively simple to manage. An organisations policies should reflect what staff are to do when approached by a resident. The policy should strongly discourage or prohibit monetary gifts, however informed decision making from the resident is paramount. If a resident chooses to give a small token gift to a staff member, they may feel upset or insulted if they are prevented from exercising their right to choose who to gift to. The flip side of course is that without robust protections in place, vulnerable people can easily be taken advantage of, so transparency, open communication with the residents, their family/substitute decision makers (where appropriate, as some residents don’t want their families involved) is key. Then, the giving of a small token gift can be an uplifting experience for all concerned. We often see examples of this in our home, and family members are often just as keen to show their appreciation for staff who clearly go “above and beyond”. I am sure many staff in many homes see this.

  9. This has always been a thorny issue, BUT I am tired of journalists muddying the waters. Registered and enrolled nurses KNOW what is expected of them and the consequences of non compliance. It is the unregulated care workers, often the lowest paid workers of all staff in a care home (think about that one). Many residents and families are aware of this and wish show appreciation, especially over these difficult times when so many have gone the extra mile (often unrewarded by the facility). It is more insulting that well paid managers should dictate how that appreciation should be shown – transparency, yes – more draconian rules, NO. I thought it was meant to be the resident’s home? There are wrong doers out there but they are few, its up to everyone to be vigilant.

  10. The act of giving makes he person giving feel happy and generates an emotion of kindness. Thus the act of receiving is one of gratitude and feeling valued. Both of these human emotions are positive to relationships.
    Ensuring that this is kept within the realms of acceptable limits with guiding principles it shouldn’t be frowned upon.
    Being able to be kind and appreciated, and demonstrate an act of giving should be viewed in the context life and relationships. Just as a carer would like to provide a plant, flowers or something personal to demonstrate “honest” care for the individual.
    We have all of these standards that focus on “relationships” but we always go backwards by getting so risk adverse we forget about the good intent and honesty that actually does exist. We are dealing with human emotions here, stimulus of positive feelings and releasing of endorphins.
    Keep to clear guidelines, review and build the relationships.

  11. The most important thing I believe is to have a Gifts folder where the gift and details are recorded.

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