For those who have been parents we have all faced the dilemma of wanting to see our children grow and develop while having a strong sense of our duty of care to keep them safe.
This dilemma also exists for people whom care for the elderly, whether they are family or caregivers. Overprotection generally comes out of the best intentions, however, it can keep people from being all they are meant to be. Excessive limitations and lack of choice can deplete the life of a loved one and lead to a loss in dignity.
The term ‘dignity of risk’ is based on the belief that self determination and the right to take reasonable risks are essential for dignity and self esteem. This applies to all people irrespective of age and ability.
People caring for the elderly need to find that balance between dignity of risk and duty of care.
“This takes an understanding that having a ‘duty of care’ is not about creating restrictions for the people we care for, it is about giving them options and respecting their autonomy and dignity in making choices. It is about realising the freedom to make their own choice may expose them to a level of risk.” says Janet Sykes, Nurse Educator at Anglican Care.
The concept of ‘dignity of risk’ therefore becomes a great challenge to residential aged care operators and home care providers. Already a highly regulated environment, the focus is on safeguarding the individual in care. Great emphasis is therefore placed on preventing and reducing risk that could potentially harm an older person, for example falls prevention. That said, thankfully more and more aged care providers are embracing the concept and shift in thinking.
Janet and her care team believe dignity of risk is about honouring the older person’s right to choose whilst being creative in maintaining their safety.
Janet states, “Let’s remember our elderly may require care in some form or another but that does not detract from their personhood. Everyone is unique and equal and this never changes, along with this everyone has the right to dignity and autonomy in making choices about their own life.”