‘You really need someone who has no biases’
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 — Natalie Hamilton
When two residents living in long-term care both willingly pursue a relationship together, it’s not Rosebridge Manor’s place to intervene, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) says.
But about once a year, staff members at the Jasper, Ont. long-term care home find themselves in a position where a relationship or the desire for a companionship poses an ethical dilemma.
For instance, questions arise when a resident with dementia is approached by another resident and it’s unclear whether the first resident would welcome those advances.
“It’s hard because you want to give people as much freedom as consenting people but you still have to protect the people who may not be able to say no,” Kathy Barr says.
“Every case is so very individualized and all the team members have to sit together and bring in an outside body to help if it’s something where there’s an ethical dilemma.
“If it’s just a case of two residents who want to have a relationship and both of them are enjoying and wanting that relationship, that’s fine. We don’t interfere, it’s not our right to interfere with that,” the LEC says.
When the questionable cases arise, Rosebridge involves its ethics committee and also solicits the help of Debora Steele. Steele is a Kingston-based psychogeriatric resource consultant for Lanark, Leeds and Grenville.
“It’s a very grey area. It’s a very touchy area. Do we talk to the families? Do we have the right to do that?”
Barr says there’s a variety of dynamics and opinions involved in these situations.
“You don’t really recognize those issues until they stare you right in the face.”
When it happens, there’s a variety of people, including staff and families, weighing in and using their individual past experiences to guide them.
“That’s when you really need someone who has no biases to really look at the situation and help us get through that.”
Steele also provides training in Gentle Persuasive Approaches and co-ordinates all of the education for long-term care homes within Rosebridge’s Local Health Integration Network.
Men and women living together, coupled with cognitive impairment, can present a host of moral, ethical, safety and security issues.
The OMNIway is taking a closer look at sexuality and safety in long-term care. Through a series of stories, interviews and videos, Axiom News is exploring the rights, risks and regulations related to the issue of sexuality and safety.
Stay tuned to the OMNIway for stories unpacking these issues.
If you have feedback on this article or a story idea to share, please e-mail natalie(at)axiomnews.ca or call Axiom News at 800-294-0051.