As massage practitioners we may be asked to treat vulnerable adults. When we are treating a child we can simply state in our own Safeguarding policies that a parent or carer must be present for the treatment, this both reassures the child and gives protection for both the child and the massage practitioner. When it comes to treating an adult in residential care the family may not always be around and staff may be too busy with other residents to be present. This can give rise to some questions around Safeguarding.

In referring to a vulnerable adult here I am talking about an adult who, at that time, is not able to express their own views. This may be a long term, permanent condition, perhaps a brain injury at birth that has had a profound effect on the individual or, for example, someone who has had a stroke which has left them unable to speak for themselves at this moment in time – a situation which may or may not change.

The practitioner is then left with a bit of dilemma, to treat or not to treat. The benefits of massage can be so great for the individual in terms of pain reduction, increased movement and rehabilitation that I have usually chosen to treat but have put in place a variation of the client consent form for when the client cannot consent to treatment themselves.

This form includes:

  • The usual client detail: personal details such as name and age
  • Contact details: for the person who is their next of kin or who has power of attorney as well as for the residential home the client is living in
  • Medical history: this will include medical consent to massage where appropriate for the condition
  • My Safeguarding policy: This will include that I have full, enhanced DBS clearance, that I always adhere to strict and full professional client draping, that I will sign in and out of the home so that there is a full record of my visit, that I will work with the door ajar so that members of staff are free to ‘check in’ as & when and finally that my client notes will be available to the next of kin / person with power of attorney.
  • I ask that person (the person who is next of kin or who has the power of attorney) to sign on behalf of the client.

This is all reviewed on a regular basis so that should the person recover and be able to consent to treatment themselves, we move to doing that instead. Massage can be such a powerful tool, especially for someone whose medical condition may mean that they are often ‘handled’ rather than ‘touched’, having safeguards in place allows this to take place in a professional environment and at the same time protects both client and practitioner – freeing us to do our job and allowing the client to benefit from this powerful therapy we call massage.


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