Suggestions and Sensitivities

for Performing Service With People

October 16, 2006


1.         Issues you should be aware of:

A.        Informed Consent-minor children, prisoners, fetuses, and the cognitively impaired (and therefore, most individuals in a nursing home or assisted living center) are not legally capable of giving informed consent.  Their guardians must be informed, they must consent; and minors, prisoners, or the cognitively impaired must assent to the involvement.  Informing them must be done in a language they understand.

B.         Risk-These populations are in categories in which various risks are heightened because of their membership in specific sub-groups.  For example: pregnant women and fetuses are more vulnerable to physical trauma; children are more vulnerable to potential harassment or psychological harm from adults, those who have cognitive impairment may not be able to adequately judge what information is private and what is not, etc.  They must not be put at risk  by your actions, in any way, including physically, emotionally, mentally, or psychologically.

C.         Culture and Language-Some of these populations may not be capable of understanding English, complex language structure, cultural norms, etc.

D.        Continued Assent to Participate-Some of these populations (particularly children and cognitively impaired) may not feel capable of ending the conversation when they do not wish to participate or when they begin to feel uncomfortable with the process after their initial consent.


2.         General sensitivities for working with people in a service setting:

A.        Nothing in a service relationship can be overly intrusive (questions about personal subjects such as sexual issues, health history, personal financial information, family matters, etc.).

B.         Sometimes these subjects just come out in the course of conversation.  They should not be pursued and everything that is said in these discussions should be kept confidential.  Their personal information should not be discussed with room mates, at Fast and Testimony Meeting, with family, or others.

C.         No photographs, recordings, video-taping, or other personally identifiable record of the individuals visited should be made.

D.        Even when a person indicates a willingness to be served, care must be taken to carefully monitor theirs or their family member's non-verbal cues of their discomfort with the visit.  If discomfort is observed, politely excuse yourself.

E.         No inappropriate physical contact (back rubs, stroking, sitting on laps, other close physical contact), and no sexual contact, can be made with participants.


3.         Specific sensitivities for working with people in hospitals, residential care or lock-down facilities.

A.        Always seek permission of the management before volunteering.  Often they will supply some training for you and some even have a short certification process to become a volunteer.  In a public school setting permission must be received from the principal before volunteering.

B.         Generally you will want at least two individuals 18 years of age and older when serving anyone in these groups.  This "two-deep" leadership is a requirement when serving minors.

C.         Please be strict to observe visiting hours, even when the resident wants you to stay.

D.        Don't accept gifts (other than perhaps refreshments after a service project) or take things from their residences or rooms.  Don't give gifts or food.  Many have food allergies, diabetes, etc.

E.         Be cautious not to overload patient rooms with too many people.  This may over-stimulate the patients or cause difficulty adjusting their medications.

F.         Don't do things for them that they can reasonably do for themselves.

G.         If family members are visiting, it is generally wise to move to another person rather than to interrupt family time.