Positive Risk Taking in Health and Social Care

Positive Risk Taking in Health and Social Care

Person-Centred Care

Care Learning

4 mins READ

Positive risk-taking in health and social care refers to an approach that involves recognising and respecting an individual’s right to make informed choices about their own lives, including the decision to take risks.

Rather than completely avoiding risks—which can lead to overly paternalistic or restrictive care—this approach supports individuals in understanding and managing risks, promoting their autonomy, independence, and well-being.

What does positive risk-taking involve in health and social care?

Person-Centered Approach

A person-centred approach forms the foundation of positive risk-taking. It emphasises understanding the individual’s preferences, aspirations, values, and needs. This approach considers the person first and the disability or condition second, ensuring that the support provided aligns closely with the individual’s own goals and desires.

Informed Decision-Making

Informed decision-making is crucial to positive risk-taking. It involves providing individuals with all necessary information regarding the potential benefits and hazards of their choices.

This includes a balanced discussion of possible outcomes, both positive and negative, ensuring that the person can weigh these factors and make a well-considered decision.

Collaborative Planning

Effective positive risk-taking necessitates collaborative planning that includes the individual, their family, caregivers, and professionals. This multi-stakeholder approach ensures that different perspectives are considered and that the plan is comprehensive.

By collaborating, the team can develop strategies to minimise potential risks while maximising opportunities for positive outcomes.

Individual Rights and Autonomy

Respecting the individual’s rights and autonomy is paramount. Positive risk-taking recognises that every competent adult has the right to make their own decisions, even if others may perceive those decisions as risky.

This respect for autonomy must, however, be balanced against the duty of care that professionals and caregivers have.

Risk Assessment and Management

Risk assessment and management are integral to this approach. It involves identifying potential risks, evaluating their likelihood and impact, and then developing strategies to mitigate these risks.

Importantly, risk management in positive risk-taking is not about eliminating risk but rather making it manageable and acceptable from both the individual’s and the support team’s perspectives.

Support Systems

Providing robust support systems can help individuals take positive risks. This might include skills training, assistive technologies, environmental adaptations, and ongoing emotional support.

By ensuring that individuals have the resources they need, support systems can empower them to take risks and achieve greater independence.

Monitoring and Review

Ongoing monitoring and regular review are essential to ensure that the approach remains effective and responsive to changing circumstances.

The initial plans and risk assessments should be revisited periodically to adapt to any fresh developments, ensuring that the individual continues to be supported in their risk-taking endeavours.

What are the Benefits of Positive Risk Taking?

  • Enhanced Quality of Life: Enables individuals to pursue activities and goals that bring joy and fulfilment.
  • Independence and Empowerment: Promotes self-reliance and confidence, giving individuals more control over their lives.
  • Skill Development: Encourages learning and development, which can reduce dependency on care services over time.
  • Enhanced Relationship Dynamics: Fosters trust and respect between service users and caregivers, as individuals feel supported in their choices.
  • Mental and Emotional Well-being: Contributes to a sense of purpose and satisfaction, improving overall mental and emotional health.

Examples of Positive Risk Taking in Health and Social Care

Here are some examples of positive risk-taking in various care settings across different health and social care settings:

Residential Care Homes

  • Personal Preferences: Allowing residents to personalise their rooms with their own furniture and decorations, even if this means there is a slight increase in the risk of accidents.
  • Activity Choices: Encouraging residents to take part in physical activities or outings that they enjoy, such as gardening, despite potential risks of minor injuries. Staff ensure safety measures are in place and provide help when necessary.

Home Care Services

  • Independent Living: Supporting individuals to continue living in their own homes by installing assistive technologies such as emergency alarms or using telehealth services, even if it means they are not under constant supervision.
  • Daily Tasks: Encouraging clients to carry out daily tasks like cooking or cleaning with the help of adaptive tools, instead of doing everything for them, to preserve their independence and skills.

Mental Health Care

  • Rehabilitation Programs: Supporting individuals recovering from mental health crises to engage in community activities or volunteer work. This provides a sense of purpose and community connection but involves careful planning and periodic assessments to manage any potential risks.
  • Medication Management: Allowing individuals with mental health conditions to take more responsibility for managing their own medication, with regular check-ins and educational support to ensure they are doing so safely.

Learning Disabilities

  • Employment Opportunities: Facilitating supported employment opportunities for individuals with learning disabilities, even if there is a risk of failure or social challenges. Job coaches or mentors can provide necessary support and adjustments to ensure a positive experience.
  • Social Activities: Encouraging participation in social clubs or community groups, which can help develop social skills and relationships, despite the anxiety or discomfort that can initially be associated with these interactions.

Children’s Services

  • Foster Care: Allowing children in foster care to partake in age-appropriate activities like school trips or joining sports teams. These experiences can be immensely beneficial for their social and personal development, even if they involve a degree of risk.
  • Independence Training: Providing older teenagers in foster care the opportunity to gain independence through programs that teach life skills such as cooking, budgeting, or using public transport, preparing them for independent living once they age out of the system.

Palliative Care

  • Quality of Life Choices: Supporting a terminally ill patient’s decision to attend a family gathering or take a holiday, despite medical advice for a more controlled environment. Palliative care teams can provide necessary support and monitoring to manage this risk.
  • Symptom Management: Allowing patients to decide on their pain management strategies, including the use of complementary therapies or adjusting medication routines, to maintain their quality of life as much as possible.

Rehabilitation Services

  • Physical Rehabilitation: Encouraging individuals recovering from physical injuries to undertake challenging exercise regimes or use mobility aids independently, even when there is a risk of falls, under the supervision and guidance of physiotherapists.
  • Substance Abuse Programs: Gradually giving individuals more responsibility in managing their recovery programs, such as attending community support groups or educational courses, allowing them to build resilience and coping skills.

Day Centers

  • Skill Development Activities: Offering workshops such as computer skills, cooking classes, or art, which involves using potentially risk-bearing equipment (like hot stoves or sharp tools) under supervision.
  • Trips and Outings: Organising day trips to cultural or recreational sites, enhancing social interaction and mental stimulation, even though these outings present logistical and health-related risks.

In all these examples, the principle is to promote autonomy and enhance quality of life while carefully considering and managing the associated risks.

Positive risk-taking requires a thoughtful balance between enabling individuals to make their own choices and ensuring their safety and well-being.

Final Thoughts

In summary, positive risk-taking in health and social care is about striking a balanced and person-centred approach that respects individual autonomy while carefully managing and mitigating potential risks.

This approach can lead to enhanced quality of life, greater independence, and improved mental and emotional well-being for service users.

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