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Consumers of aged care services have the right to choose how they live their lives, even if that means engaging in risky activities. Aged care providers must afford their customers the dignity of risk by assisting and supporting them in making those decisions while also balancing the provider’s existing legal obligations to employees, other customers, and stakeholders. 

Anyone who has had the responsibility of caring for another person has a duty of care. This is the bare minimum of care they must provide to ensure the safety and well-being of their charge. Most of the time, people think of this in terms of caring for children. However, the duty of care extends to anyone who looks after the elderly or disabled in order to ensure their safety and well-being. While the duty of care is an important concept, it is accompanied by the dignity of risk. 

As aged care providers struggle to balance their duty of care with their obligation to respect their client’s dignity, some are asking clients to sign an acknowledgement that includes waivers/releases and indemnities as a means of mitigating risks. These acknowledgement forms can be used in a variety of situations where the client wishes to participate in an activity that may endanger themselves or others. As an example: 

  • The family of a resident wants the resident to use an electrical scooter despite the fact that the resident has difficulty controlling it. 
  • A guardian desires that the resident be given food that poses a choking hazard. 
  • A home care client would like to hire a worker/service provider who is not on their preferred supplier list. 

In these types of situations, a risk acknowledgment/waiver form can be used as part of your risk dignity process. However, it is critical to understand the associated advantages and disadvantages. 

In essence, the dignity of risk refers to a person’s right to make their own choices and decisions, even if those choices may put them in danger. For example, as a child grows older, his/her parents allow them more flexibility and freedom in how they play, even if there is a risk of injury. 

Climbing trees, roller-skating, playing sports, and other activities are all common for children, as are injuries. Many parents let their children choose which activities they want to participate in; some will choose risky activities, while others will prefer to play it safe. 

We learn and develop during our formative years and throughout our lives by making mistakes and by using trial and error. The dignity of risk is the fundamental human right that allows this process to take place. We would be unable to reach our full potential if we were never exposed to the possibility of risk. 

This concept may appear simple at first, but it becomes much more complex when dealing with people who have mental or physical disabilities. They may lack the ability to weigh the potential risks in a given situation, which means they may be unable to make informed decisions for themselves. This is where the concept of duty of care comes into play. 


What is the Dignity of Risk?  

The right of all people to handle practical tasks that involve a known or expected level of risk is referred to as the dignity of risk. It also includes the right of the individual to make their own choices and decisions, also known as autonomy. This is true even when their decisions may put them in danger. The concept behind the dignity of risk is that these tasks and choices are an important part of learning, allowing for growth, establishing self-worth, and thus improving quality of life.  

While the term may be unfamiliar, many people are already acquainted with it. Parenthood is a common area in which the dignity of risk is balanced for children who may not always have enough understanding to make decisions that are in their best interests. Instead, on a daily basis, parents either make decisions for their children or allow their children’s input. Most things we do as children involve some level of risk, just as riding a bike, going out with friends, taking the school bus, or eating unhealthy foods. These choices are made with the understanding that a child must grow, try new things, and learn to deal with difficult situations as they arise.  

Parents must also work to reduce these risks in order to protect their children, whether through training or risk management strategies. These include actions such as baby safety gates on stairs, training wheels on a toddler’s bike, or learner plates on a new driver’s car.  

The same principles apply to the elderly as their senses deteriorate and their bodies weaken. The dignity of risk is a principle upheld and implemented by those who provide care and support to the elderly community, which makes it a point to consider a client’s dignity of risk whenever a task is assigned and to work to reduce these risks for their clients.  


Balancing Risk and Respect: Understanding Dignity in Aged Care

Unpack the concept of Dignity of Risk in Aged Care. Reach out to us today and let’s ensure your loved ones live their life with respect and dignity.


Understanding the Dignity and Choice of the Individual 

It is critical to remember that no two people have had the same life experience. We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life, necessitating flexible care and ongoing assessment. 

The scope of an individual’s dignity and rights in aged care is comprised of seven elements, according to the Australian Government’s consumer dignity and choice standard. 


Dignity and Respect 

Individuals are treated with respect, which promotes communication and motivation, allowing them to grow and learn in all areas, ultimately improving their quality of life. 


Diversity, Identity, and Culture 

Individuals must be treated equally. Caregivers must be understanding of language barriers and accommodating of religious practises, with measures in place to mediate requests and communication. Understanding an individual’s needs and preferences entails respecting their identity, culture, and diversity. 


Cultural Security 

Receiving treatment and services that are specifically tailored to their identity, culture, and diversity. 


Freedom of Choice 

A service provider must accommodate and promote choice. And in order to strengthen this offering, they must provide options and services that correspond to the options and make them available to the individual through any means necessary (within reason). 


Dignity of Risk 

A person requires the dignity of risk. The provider is responsible for informing the individual about the consequences and risks associated with their decision and actions. 

Taking risks, failing, succeeding, and learning all contribute to an improvement in an individual’s mental state and overall quality of life. 



Individuals have the right to know about their care plan, services, costs, and personal information. The information must be communicated in a clear, understandable manner that is tailored to the individual’s needs and abilities. People learn and process in different ways, and it is the responsibility of carers to tailor their approach when dealing with direct correspondence and relationships. 


Personal Privacy 

Every individual has the right to privacy. Over-caring for someone, as well as invading their boundaries and personal space, can stifle their independence and growth. 

Personal information about an individual must be kept confidential and accessible to them at all times. 


Why is Risk Dignity an Important Principle in Aged Care? 

Our humanity depends on our ability to make decisions. On a daily basis, we make decisions that have consequences, and by confronting them, we learn and grow. 

The dignity of risk is an important aspect of caring for the elderly because it prioritises an individual’s ability to make their own decisions. Individuals have the right to fail, and when that right is respected, they achieve a higher level of human dignity. The ability to make decisions about their lives is more important than avoiding risk at all costs. 


What is an example of Risk Dignity? 

Consider how your loved one used to enjoy long walks through the woods, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, or dancing to their heart’s content with their partner. Unfortunately, these and other activities that we take for granted can become more dangerous as we age and lose some of our strength, coordination, and physical capability. But is it more important that we stop doing these things, sacrificing our joy, in order to be safe and live longer? Or is it more important to be happy and fulfilled in our lives? 

The purpose of the care or support provider is to assist in reducing those risks while maintaining their quality of life and dignity. Nonetheless, there is an inherent conflict for the carer to meet their duty of care while also allowing their loved one or client to take reasonable risks while remaining responsible for their well-being. 


What is the duty of care? 

The caregiver’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for a person is referred to as the duty of care. Caregivers must take extra precautions, especially when working with people of all abilities, to accommodate the mental and physical challenges of those in their care. 

Caregivers are trained to do everything possible to keep their patients safe at all times. This can include, for example, preventing them from entering traffic at a busy intersection or denying them access to foods to which they are allergic. All of this is done with the person’s best interests in mind. 

Caregivers must consider those in their care’s mental and physical capacities in order to make informed decisions about how to care for them. However, there is a fine line between providing adequate assistance and removing the person’s dignity from risk. 

In aged care, a duty of care is the legal obligation imposed on a staff member or organisation to act in the best interests of residents. Duty of care laws is intended to protect all Australians, particularly those who are vulnerable or receiving medical treatment and/or services. 


Empowering Seniors: The Dignity of Risk in Aged Care

Understanding the Dignity of Risk can empower seniors to lead a fulfilling life. Reach out to us now, and we’ll guide you through this important concept.


Duty of Care vs. Dignity of Risk 

For many years, the dignity of risk vs. duty of care debate has raged on, with many agreeing that there are contradictions and conflicts between their core principles. 

Caregivers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all individuals, including their own. Furthermore, carers must demonstrate to individuals the dignity of risk. As a result, it is clear that the conflict begins and ends with providing safety and encouraging risk and decision-making. 

There are factors that a carer must consider when approaching the dignity of risk if certain hazards may encroach on liability and safety, reshaping the boundaries of their duty of care. 

The following considerations must be made: 


Is the individual aware of the risks and their implications?

A carer must provide directions as well as detailed information on the risks associated with the individual’s decision. If such hazards occur, this must be documented as a reference. 


Are they alert enough to make a decision?

A carer must consult a GP and/or family members to determine whether the individual is of sound mind and capable of making decisions that could result in failure or harm. 


Are the risk of harming others?

A carer must consider whether the individual’s decision will have an impact on others at the aged care facility, including staff. If this is the case, a carer has the right to refuse their request in accordance with their duty of care to all individuals and employees at the aged care facility. 


Will the individual’s decision have a significant impact on their safety?

A carer must consider whether their decision will result in death or permanent disability. If this is the case, the carer has a duty of care to decline their request. 

If a carer declines a request, they must provide a detailed explanation to the individual explaining why their request was denied. Individual respect must be demonstrated through communication and compassion. The best way to approach the situation is to offer a solution or a compromise. 

The dignity of risk cannot contradict a caregiver’s duty of care if the individual’s best interests are at heart. A carer can achieve balance by encouraging their learning and independence while coordinating their safety through education and guidance. 


How do risk dignity and duty of care interact? 

The prevalent ideology places care and risk at diametrically opposed ends of the spectrum. The carer reduces potential risks by providing higher levels of care. However, this takes away the customer’s independence and autonomy. In contrast, if the carer provides less hands-on care, the customer is exposed to more risk, but they also gain the ability to learn through trial and error. 

The relationship between care and risk is frequently presented as a dichotomy, and this relationship needs to be reframed. Duty of care implies putting systems in place to limit risks, but not at the expense of a person’s right to make decisions. Instead of thinking about how to avoid risk, carers should consider how they can help someone do what they want safely. 

A care professional, for example, may advise a customer to switch to a diet of thickened fluids. If the customer declines, staff can support their decision to continue eating solid foods by supervising them during meals and following up with them on a regular basis to reduce risk. 


How do we find the perfect balance? 

Though it may appear that the dignity of risk and the duty of care are incompatible, this is not the case. We can begin to see things from a different perspective by simply reframing the general approach to the two. In fact, risk dignity is an important component of the duty of care, and the two can certainly coexist. 

Rather than thinking of this pair of concepts as either one or the other, consider how they can work together as one. It is crucial that carers empower those under their care to make their own decisions. Our customers will be better able to exercise their risk-taking dignity if we provide them with the tools and information they need. 

As a result, it becomes part of the caregiver’s duty of care to provide their customers with as much information and support about their rights, abilities, and opportunities as possible. 

The final piece of the puzzle is to help our customers gain the confidence they need to make their own decisions in the future by assisting them with the choices they are currently making. Each person has their own set of passions, goals, and dreams, and it is critical that they feel empowered to pursue them in a way that is appropriate for their needs and abilities. 


Why is Risk Dignity an Important Factor to Consider When Planning Activities for Clients? 

Considering the dignity of risk when planning activities for clients will assist you in determining the best course of action to ensure their quality of life is preserved. Rather than making someone a cup of tea or cooking them dinner, they may only require supervision, equipment or an assistive device to be set up, or someone to do minor tasks on the side to reduce the risks involved. 

The concept of community care is changing, and at Wise Choice, we understand that our clients do not want to simply be cared for. Instead, we can assist them in living their lives to the fullest by providing planning, risk management, and support services. 

Anyone providing support services must strike a balance between respecting a client’s right to control and ensuring their safety and well-being in a humble manner. 

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