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WHEN ‘POSITIVELY RISKY’ IS A GOOD THING IN AGED CARE

Confidence throughout your life comes from having faith in yourself and your abilities. 

Yet, as we age, confidence in our abilities can diminish, limiting what we do, and creating a bleak feedback loop that feeds on whatever confidence remains. 

This depletion of confidence can have a huge impact on our lives, significantly reducing the quality of it for older folk. 

There are many reasons why people lose confidence as they age. Retirement can lead to feelings of loss-of-purpose. Deteriorating health can affect our faith in our physical and cognitive capabilities. Losing friends and family as they move on or move away, can cause deep loneliness and a sense of feeling less supported. All of these can have a detrimental effect on our social and emotional confidence. 

In our significant experience at Honey Bee Homes, we know that being part of—or feeling connected to—a community positively reinforces the independence and confidence of older people. 

Getting out into the community, and taking positive risks that many of us consider everyday activities like a trip to the farmers market or going for a walk, keeps people physically active and socially connected. Social connectedness fuels friendships and feelings of safety and security—all good reasons for getting up and getting stuck into the day. 

At its annual congress and exhibition in 2013, members of the Older People’s Forum held a debate titled ‘A risk worth taking?’. The debate report stated the following:  

“A positive risk-taking culture looks beyond the potential physical effects of risk, such as falling over or of getting lost, to consider the mental aspects of risk, such as the effects on wellbeing or self-identity if a person is unable to do something that is important to them.” 

We see positive risk taking as a process which starts with the identification of potential benefit or harm. The goal is then to encourage and support people in positive risk-taking to achieve positive personal change or growth.  

Positive risk management isn’t about trying to eliminate risk entirely. Not all risks can be managed or mitigated, but some can be predicted. It’s simply about managing the risks that maximise someone’s choice and independence. 

Our goal at Honey Bee Homes is to manage risks in ways that improve the quality of life of our residents, to promote their independence, and to nip any deterioration of these in the bud. Positive risk-taking is an approach that focuses on what people can do, not on how they’re limited. 

The nature of risk is such that there’s always a chance that something will happen, and that that ‘something’ may have harmful or beneficial (or both) outcomes for a particular person or for others.  

The process of positive risk-taking identifies the potential benefit or harm that might result from a particular choice being exercised, reduces the risk of harm and then weighs up the expected benefits against the risk of harm.  

It is not reckless. It is not negligent dismissal of potential harm, it is a carefully planned strategy for supporting choice, and our lives are full of it. 

Do you remember the moment you tentatively let go and watched your child pedal away wonkily for the first time with the trainer-wheels off?  

How did that feel for you?  

More importantly, how do you think it felt for your child? 

That’s positive risk management we can all understand and appreciate.