‘Dignity of Risk’ is the change we need in Aged Care

By Dr Maggie Haertsch

Imagine you’ve been making your own decisions your whole life, then you become a resident in an aged care home and suddenly you’re told you can’t do the things you loved to do anymore. You’re told that it is no longer safe and that you can harm yourself and possibly others if you did.

What if you’re wanting to use power tools in a men’s shed or want to go down to the kitchen to cook your favourite meal and share recipes with the cook? Or perhaps you want to fulfil your dream of skydiving from 15,000 feet, to fill yourself with the rush of adrenaline and feel alive?

Why at any age would you want to stop doing what you love or dreamed of doing? Yet in residential aged care, we have become very risk-averse, taking on the role of the guardian of safety to the extent that it can infringe on a person’s right to autonomy and freedom. To restrict a person’s choice can be a violation of their human rights, there has to be a balance struck between the safeguarding role of the home and the person’s right to choose. In many cases, it requires a conversation and some good planning so that the resident (consumer) can be enabled to fulfil their wishes with the appropriate measures in place. It is a process of creative problem-solving and planning, and the benefits for aged care home providers can be profound.

Enabling the resident to be supported in their choices is a critically important foundation of the Aged Care Quality Standards. At Anchor Excellence, providing residents with quality lived experiences while in Aged Care is one of our key goals. It’s why we’ve created the High Impact Clinical Risk Profiling tool to enable you and your team navigate their responsibilities and the dignity of the consumer.