Is Grampa Packin’ Heat? And Other Safety Considerations for Advocates

threatsSometimes a conversation gets started in our APHA Forum that brings me up short. (One reason I SO love the Forum!)

One of those conversations was kicked off this week by a member who posed a question: are other members asking potential new clients whether they have guns in their homes?

I’m not a gun person, and I live in an area where we just don’t think about guns much, so I really didn’t understand the question at first…. until others chimed in.

It’s about safety – which, of course, makes perfect sense. Many members followed up Marie’s question with comments that showed the comprehensive nature of those safety considerations: that it’s not just about a client’s safety (might she ever try to commit suicide?) but about the advocate’s safety, too. (Might the client get angry enough with his own perceptions or frustrations that he would take it out on his advocate?) Further, it’s not just about guns. It’s about violence wrought of frustration and fear. A number of scenarios and solutions have been shared in the Forum.

It got me thinking about the broader picture: How many of us think about the potential dangers we are exposed to in our profession? I think many of us ponder the threat of lawsuits….

But I’m not sure many of us think about real physical, safety-related threats – problems we can prevent up front if we are aware of them – which goes back to why I value the conversations we have in the Forum. It’s possible this particular conversation will save lives.

Other dangers I can think of:

One relates to keeping an advocate safe, (which I first wrote about on page 183 of The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook). That is – don‘t ever meet a client for the first time in his or her home unless you take someone with you. Over the years we’ve heard stories about real estate agents who might be called to list a home, or to show a home, only to be attacked or violated (even killed) sometimes because the meeting was set up as a trick to get them there.

Scary stuff – and just as possible for an advocate who might be invited to meet with a potential client for the same nefarious purposes. The intent may not be to harm someone specific. The intent would be to harm someone else – anyone else – out of frustration, fear, doubt, uncertainty – all those negative emotions that come with a bad diagnosis and prognosis or medical bills that are outrageously beyond anyone’s reach. The preventive approach is to arrange for meetings in a public place until you are assured that you’ll be safe with that client.

Another danger is about keeping a client safe. That is, not driving a client to an appointment (or anywhere else) ourselves. This one often surprises new advocates because they don’t realize the danger, and they think they should offer this service. But it’s actually a safety consideration because physically assisting a client who is sick or debilitated in any way creates opportunities for that client to fall, or stumble on his way into, or out of, a car, or the possibility she will hit her head trying to get into or out of the car. It’s not even about whether you can get into an accident, although that’s a possibility, too. (In no case can you expose yourself to the danger of a client who gets injured while in your care. Beyond your client being hurt, it can be the end of your practice, too. You probably aren’t insured for such an incident either.)

The best advocacy practices take potential safety-related situations into account as they set their own policies and best practices. Whether it’s asking about whether there are guns in a client’s home, or making arrangements for your clients’ transportation needs, or meeting in public places, safety first! is smart business.

Can you think of other safety considerations for advocates and clients? Please share them below.

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Agree? Disagree?

Share your experience or join the conversation!


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1 thought on “Is Grampa Packin’ Heat? And Other Safety Considerations for Advocates”

  1. This is more irrational anti gun hysteria. Whether a person has a firearm in their home is none of the advocates business and to assume that if they do it constitutes a safety issue is deductive logic ending in a false conclusion at its best. Do they have a gas stove? What if it blows up or they stick their head in the oven? Do they have loose rugs? What if they slip and fall. Some safety issues may be dealt with as reasonable such as a broken door lock as a security issue. Advocates are not safety inspectors. Even the ACA has avoided the gun issue by making sure that patients don’t have to answer such nonsense questions. The research about guns in the home and risk are dubious at best. Self serving statistics.

    If an advocate suspects that a patient is suicidal they should contact the proper authorities as any professional would do should they encounter a client they believe to be harmful to themselves or others.

    I would no more ask a person whether they have a gun than I would irrelevant detail about their sex lives, whether they are gay/lesbian, what their politics are or other “none of my business” questions. It seems that as advocates in our zest to “help others” we overextend our roles to be intrusive and meddling where we are neither wanted or invited. Respect peoples rights.

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