Learn about setting healthy limits


Setting healthy limits is part of practicing self-care.


Limits or boundaries make clear:

  • What someone can and can’t do

  • What time and skills someone has to offer

  • How someone wants to interact with others

  • What someone needs to feel good about a relationship

People who set healthy limits can better help others, because they tend to:

  • Feel less stress

  • Be able to handle more challenging situations

  • Make clearer decisions

  • Be more honest and open with others

  • Ask for help when they need it

When people who are helping older adults don’t set healthy limits, they might:

  • Always put others’ needs and feelings first

  • Feel angry, resentful or guilty

  • Put pressure on themselves to “fix” everything

  • Blame themselves when the older adult has problems or is upset

  • Think self-care is selfish

  • Stop helping suddenly when the stress becomes too much

Healthy limits make clear what someone can reasonably do. They take into account the helper’s:

  • Feelings and preferences

  • Strengths and weaknesses

  • Other obligations, like work, family and home

  • Relationship with the older adult

  • Need for breaks, fun and relaxation

People are more likely to stay within their healthy limits if they:

  • Clearly describe their healthy limits to others

  • Take time to consider whether they can help with something new

  • Support the older adult’s abilities and decisions

  • Prioritize tasks and know which ones can wait

  • Take breaks and set aside even a few minutes each day for relaxation

  • Let go when it’s not their decision or is out of their control

  • Look for and use resources for older adults and their helpers or caregivers

  • Ask others to help, within their healthy limits