Safety vs. Autonomy for Elders: What if Maslow was Wrong?

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Theresa (Terri) A. Harvath, Ph.D., RN, FAAN


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Safety vs. Autonomy for Elders: What if Maslow was Wrong?

Elder care staff are faced with similar dilemmas every day: The person living with diabetes who loves ice cream and wants to eat it every day; the elder at high risk of falling who refuses to use a walker. How do you balance respect for individual choice and the desire to protect the person from harm? This presentation will explore the complex issues involved in trying to honor the personal preferences of elders within the context of a long-term care environment obsessed with “safety.” The rationale for this emphasis on safety is often Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the pyramid that places “physiological needs” at its base, followed by “safety,” then “love and esteem” and finally “self-actualization. “During this webinar, we will examine case studies and generate ideas and strategies to help care providers make well-reasoned decisions when the values of autonomy and safety collide.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explore the different meanings of the word “safety” and how it impacts care to older adults.
  2. Examine the ethical principles that underlie decision-making for older adults.
  3. Consider the challenges that arise when tension between resident safety and autonomy exists.

Theresa (Terri) A. Harvath, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, is a Clinical Professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. She is committed to improving the health and health care of frail older adults through the integration of theory, practice and research. Dr. Harvath is particularly interested in exploring the complex clinical issues that often arise in the care of persons living with dementia.



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