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Cruel to Be Kind and Kind to be Cruel
I received an email from a woman named Irma. She wants to become a health advocate, to assist people in her community who have Alzheimers. (Bless her for that.) But she was laid off from her job, and doesn’t have any money. She asked me if I would let her join Alliance of Professional Health Advocates for free so she could “learn how to do it.” Irma’s request was not the first I’ve received over the years. I am also asked to give people free copies of my books, and even loan or donate money to help them get started with their practices. In the early years of building this patient advocacy profession, I used to struggle over the answers to these requests. Should I support these folks to help them get started when they didn’t have the means to do it themselves? If I said “yes” – would that really help them? If I said “no” – would I be hurting them, and would I feel guilty? How much did I owe to the profession to build a strong foundation? How much did I owe compassionate people who want to help others? How could I even determine which answer served the requester, the profession, the organization, or me the best? Would one answer serve them all? It took a lot of soul searching….. And ultimately I came to one conclusion, one point of view that helps me answer them all. The answer is always “no.” Here’s why: Irma represents the requests for free membership very well. I am sorry for her circumstances, and I am impressed that she is trying to move forward in a new profession. I give her props for picking herself up and trying to figure out what to do next. But her plea gives an excellent clue as to why her wish to become a private advocate isn’t good for her, and isn’t good for our profession either. That is, that AS A PRIVATE ADVOCATE she will not be able to help the people she says she wants to help – elderly people with Alzheimer’s.…