One of the more challenging career paths to choose in life is that of an Adult Protective Services Investigator. This is a career that is not for the faint at heart, or for those that cannot handle extreme and dangerous situations. An Adult Protective Services Investigator helps those that cannot help themselves, it is their job to investigate any situation that might arise on the job. An investigator is responsible for helping abused and neglected adults 18 and older that have a mental handicap, or that cannot physically take care of themselves (Wold, 2011). These victims are being neglected, both physically and mentally abused, and being exploited by those that they trust to care for them. These victims could be abused in several different ways, in several different places, and by several different people. It is the job of an investigator to determine what is happening to the victims, figure out a program to help the victims in need, prepare detailed narrative reports that will be presented in court, and to ensure the overall well-being of the victim (DOJ, 2012). Also, the threat of danger is always present while on the job, and this adds to the stress and strain that’s already happening. There is so much that an investigator has to try and accomplish that sometimes, the stress of trying to help everyone they can, becomes too much for someone to handle.
This stress leads to what is now being called compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue describes the symptoms that are experienced by social workers, physicians, nurses, and emergency personnel who work with clients experiencing trauma from assault, maltreatment, and disaster. Compassion fatigue is related to the emotional, cognitive, and physiological consequences of working with survivors of traumatic events, such as natural, or man-made disasters, abuse, or neglect (Bergal, 2007). This condition known as compassion fatigue, can cause depression, irritation, aggression, trouble concentrating, and it can lead to burnout of the job, which can lead to poor and unsatisfactory work, and that could cost a victim their life. Being on the front-line of trying to stop the abuse and neglect of others, can have a troubling and costly effect to an investigators mental and physical well-being. The role of an Adult Protective Services Investigator is to protect their victims, but they need to protect their own lives as well, otherwise, they’ll be unable to help anyone. Whether or not an investigator believes they need help to relieve stress or not, there are people and programs that are designed to combat and eliminate compassion fatigue.
While compassion fatigue is a major form of stress that an investigator can succumb to, there is also another form of stress called secondary traumatic stress. Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) natural behaviors and emotions resulting from knowledge about a traumatic event experienced by another and stress resulting from helping (Bruner, 2010). This type of stress, while not experienced by an investigator personally, it can have a lasting, and damaging effect to their overall well-being. An investigator is reliving the horrendous treatment that a victim has gone through every time they start an investigation, or reread the facts of the case. The investigator is reliving the treatment of the victim through the investigation, and this can ultimately cause problems down the road. However, much like with compassion fatigue, there are programs and treatments designed specifically for this type of stress.
An Adult Protective Services Investigator may work alone on an investigation, and they may feel as if no one is there to help them when they are in need, but what they may not know is that there are support programs designed for their well-being. There several options and programs available for Adult Protective Service Investigators that are designed to help them relieve and eliminate compassion fatigue,