Rights and safety top of mind when residents pursue relationships

Safety and Sexuality Lead Image Mar 18 2014

Team members discuss how they support residents

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 — Deron Hamel

A recent OMNIway series explored the issue of resident relationships in long-term care homes. While different situations arise in different homes, OMNI Health Care homes uphold a common focus on people’s rights and ensuring safety.

Long-term care residents have every right to pursue relationships in their homes. But while finding love in a long-term care home is a right, ethical arise at times. When this happens, staff members are prepared to work with the situation.

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,” Rosebridge Manor life enrichment co-ordinator 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.”

When the questionable cases arise, Rosebridge involves its ethics committee and solicits the help of Debora Steele. Steele is a Kingston-based psychogeriatric resource consultant for Lanark, Leeds and Grenville.

Then there’s the potential issue of residents making unwanted advances towards other residents. This can happen as a result of a resident having cognitive impairment. Although this hasn’t been an issue at Pleasant Meadow Manor, administrator and director of care Sandra Tucker says that if this did happen the home’s staff members are prepared.

Firstly, she says, the team would look to OMNI’s Supportive Measures program, which is focused on providing people with individualized care.

For example, if a staff member saw a resident making unwanted advances towards someone else they might approach the resident and talk about a subject of interest to change their focus. Or a staff member might suggest the resident join them for a walk, Tucker says.

Like Barr, Tucker says residents’ rights must always be protected and, in the case of consenting residents, there would be no intervention.

“We work at the residents’ home; they don’t live at our work,” Tucker says. “If there are two consenting adults wishing to have a relationship, who are we to interfere with that?”

However, grey areas can sometimes arise.

There have been occasions in long-term care homes where both residents consent to a relationship but their families object.

Woodland Villa administrator Mike Rasenberg says if this situation arises the home will side with the residents. In one case, Rasenberg says residents approached staff to say, “our rights aren’t being respected here.”

“They (were) right,” Rasenberg says, adding the situation was corrected. “We talked about their rights and set some parameters from a safety aspect and it’s worked out well.”

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