Risk is something that people try are cautious of everyday – the risk of hurting themselves, the risk of financial ruin, the risk of offending someone.

But there comes a point when if a person is too wary of risk, they end up negatively impacting their quality of life.

Which brings the question – does taking risks make people’s lives better?

This is definitely seen in aged care, where choice can be taken from some in an effort to protect them from risks – and without that choice and autonomy, their lives start to deteriorate.

There’s a concept known as “dignity of risk” in health care – which is about respecting an individual’s autonomy and self-determination to make choices for themselves.

The concept means that all adults have the right to make their own choices about their health and care, even if carers and nurses, or even family members believe these choices endanger the person’s health or lifespan.

Professor Ibrahim said it was an important topic to explore, particularly in the context of aged care.

“Dignity of risk is about choosing how you want to live your life,” said Professor Ibrahim.

“It’s about understanding that even if the choices go wrong and hurt you, the pleasure they bring can make it worthwhile.”

“Towards the end of life we are more concerned with quality of life rather than length of life, but the risks of something going wrong tends to be greater.”

“This leads to society being overprotective and depriving older people of the joy of hazardous activities.”

One of the challenges when it comes to the “dignity of risk” is that caregivers are not adequately prepared. They fear things going wrong, which is understandable, but in the bigger picture of a person’s quality of life not helpful.

If a person wishes to walk outside, do some gardening by themselves or eat certain foods because it makes them happy, and they fully understand that there is a risk of falling and choking and have taken that on in their decision making – then it is suggested that there should be no reason to stop them from doing what they want.

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Things get a little bit more complicated in an aged care setting as there are potential legal ramifications should things go wrong.

Benetas CEO Sandra Hills said the organisation was proud to be facilitating the discussion which would challenge typical conversations around ageing.

“As an advocate for older people, we want to generate awareness of what the real issues are for older people in a way that is meaningful and respectful,” said Ms Hills.

“Exploring the ‘Dignity of Risk’ is particularly relevant for us as an aged care provider, as we consider how we can honour an older person’s right to choose, while maintaining their safety as best as possible.”

“Managing the risk of choice, particularly in the current landscape of consumer directed care, is a very complex issue for providers but it’s an important one.”

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