Why do we take risks?
Throughout life we take risks in order to learn and adapt, and most of us will do this every day without much thought. But, when it comes to supporting people who use social care services, a number of barriers are in place to prevent clients from taking risks.
This can be incredibly stifling and can prevent service users from experiencing new things or continuing to do activities they enjoy – not to mention the impact this has on mental health and wellbeing.
So, what can we do to support positive risk-taking?
5 steps to support service users
- Speak to each of your clients about what they want to do and the goals they want to achieve. Be sure to document these – if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen!
- Review each person’s health alongside the risks that each activity may present.
- Look at each risk and see how you can remove them. If they can’t be removed, how can you mitigate the risks as much as possible? This may involve liaising with other professionals such as doctors, district nurses, and other care staff etc.
- Meet with clients and explain the risks their activities present. Be sure to involve family members or representatives if your service users want them present. Understandably, family members will want to protect their loved ones and may need reassurance of positive risk-taking.
- Establish capacity and complete the necessary mental capacity forms/documentation.
Through being person-centred, it removes any risks of institutional abuse as people are doing things they want to do and not what’s needed due to staffing levels or ease.
It’s important that throughout the process, that we take as many steps as possible to give the person the opportunity to take positive risks to achieve their goal.
Documentation is key to evidencing how you’ve reduced risks and involved the person, their family and/or a representative, and other health and social care colleagues in the process. I’d also recommend attaching photographs of activities and events to visually show the impact this has made - a smile on someone’s face can really highlight positive outcomes.
Another great way to document the impact of an activity is to ask your clients to complete a mini feedback form. This collects valuable information about what people did, whether they enjoyed it and if they’d do it again.
Remember, you can also use these visuals and feedback forms as part of your inspection to evidence best practice.
"Risk-taking should not just be person-centred, it needs to be person-led."
A practical example: alcohol intake alongside regular medication
A common example I see on forums for managers is around supporting people who take regular medication but would like to drink. Here’s my advice:
- Speak to the person about what they want to drink and how much they want to consume. Is it a quick trip to the pub for one or two drinks or a heavy drinking session?
- Liaise with the person’s doctor about their medication and see if it’s possible to drink alcohol alongside this, establish how many units can be drunk and if any changes to medication can be made (e.g., the time this is taken or the type of medication).
- Consider other factors unique to the person. Do you need to think about quieter pub times if the person doesn’t like crowds or noise? Do they have a history of alcohol abuse?
- Complete a thorough risk assessment, taking into consideration all of the above. An outcome of this could be considering smaller measures like 70% lemonade with 30% beer, half pints, mocktails etc.
"The person you’re supporting should be leading the decisions and choices so that they’re in control of their lives."
- Age is just a number
- A care home is not for end of life, it’s to live
- Source new activities to enrich people’s lives
In a sector so governed by protecting people, we have a duty of care to do all we can to support the best quality of life, which includes positive risk-taking. Remember, the biggest risk in life is not taking any risks at all!