Engaging with Vulnerable People

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Engaging With Vulnerable People
This essay will explore the concept of vulnerability, the type of people who can be vulnerable and its potential effects.  It will then relate this specifically to the case of Miss Jaya an elderly Hindu lady who has no relatives and lives alone, and why she is perceived to be vulnerable.  The essay will then go on to evaluate how a nurse can demonstrate professional values and empower the patient to help reduce their vulnerability, taking into account the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Code of Professional Conduct.  The case of Mrs Jaya indicates some discriminatory practice by those responsible for caring for her, this will be discussed and how the relevant anti-discriminatory practice could be promoted.  In conclusion the essay will reflect upon the key learning points of this assignment. 

There are a number of definitions and theories in relation to vulnerable people. The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggest that the concept of vulnerability “ - has been widely used to denote a condition in which the physical and mental well-being required for a normal productive is impaired and at constant risk ” (WHO, 1992:11).  The reasons that can make people vulnerable are varied and often include  age, ethnicity, illness mental health issues, religion and learning and physical disabilities. “A vulnerable person is a person who may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness, and who is unable to take care of him or herself or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation” (DOH, 2000, p8-9).  

Miss Jaya is 74 years old and a patient in a hospital which suggests that she could be vulnerable as both an elderly person and that she is suffering from a form of illness or disability “Physical changes in old age reduce the ability to conduct activities of daily living and maintain independence” (Lyon, Kinney & Colouhoun, 2002, p.183). The work of Kang and Ridgway (1996) and Matt and Dean (1993) highlighted other reasons which can increase the vulnerability of adults.  Their work focused on the relationship between vulnerability and older adults not having social networks and support groups.  The Case Study states that Miss Jaya is ‘intensely private’ and has ‘no relatives’ and ‘lives alone’ which suggests that she might not have either a social network or support group which according to Kang and Ridgway (1996, p.111) could increase her vulnerability “Older adults tend to be more vulnerable than the young because they are less socially integrated and more likely to be under stress”. Matt and Dean (1993, p.191) indicate that the reason older people become more isolated and their support groups smaller is a natural occurrence as the death rate increases with age “Social isolation among older adults becomes more pronounced with advancing years.  The 70 years and older age group have a lower level of friend support than 50-69 due to increasing mortality with age”.

The Case Study goes on to state that Miss Jaya was ‘very upset’ and ‘embarrassed’ following an incident where a male member of staff entered the bathroom unexpectedly and found her undressed whilst being given a bath.  This incident appears to have caused Miss Jaya a great deal of stress and due to ‘staffing levels’ is something that is unavoidable.  As a Hindu it is likely that Miss Jaya would prefer to be cared for by same sex staff “Modesty issues arise when service users are no longer able to dress or store clothes themselves, and many Hindu people prefer same sex staff for personal care “(Gibbs and Barnitt, 1999, p.101).  Following on from this incident the Case Study says that Miss Jaya has since become ‘un-communicative, reluctant to eat’ and she believes her medication is not ‘relieving’ her pain.  

In addition to the fact that Miss Jaya is elderly, is now being cared for as opposed to looking after herself which she is used to and the...
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