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Dignity of Risk: Implementation tool focussing on dignity to address aged care spiritual needs

Implementation tool focussing on Dignity of Risk available to address aged care spiritual needs.

Dignity of risk relating to spirituality allows a person to carry out their express wishes regarding aspects of life that bring them meaning, purpose, connectedness, identity, and hope. These choices are despite potential negative consequences or risk of physical harm to self.

The focus of the guide is to shift organisational thinking by service providers from having sole decision-making responsibility on behalf of older people, to taking a more balanced approach to managing risk by better understanding older people’s spiritual needs.

Ms Pringle asserts that the Aged Care Quality Standards highlight the need for older people to make their own risk-taking decisions.

‘Whenever a person is restricted from engaging in activities that facilitate their spirituality, it can affect their wellbeing and quality of life. For example, a nature loving older person who is denied outside access due to perceived misadventure such as sunburn or a fall,’ she says.

The dignity of risk guide is part of the Implementation Tools series and specifically addresses outcome 1.3 of the Aged Care Quality Standards. The guide also aligns with ACQS number 4 to provide better understanding and ways to change restrictive practices that impact risk and spirituality.

Former CEO of Meaningful Ageing Australia, Ilsa Hampton, stressed that ‘whilst aged care service providers have certain health and safety obligations, they need to take a balanced approach to managing risk and respecting older people’s rights’.

‘Most available literature relating to dignity of risk does not focus specifically on spiritual needs. By restricting a person’s right to make decisions involving risk, their spiritual dimension can be directly affected.’

The guide offers service providers a step-by-step approach to help facilitate older people’s spirituality through choice whilst undertaking risk management procedures. If an older person makes a choice that is possibly harmful to them, the organisation is expected to help that person understand the risk and how it could be managed.

Members and Affliliates of Meaningful Ageing Australia can download the guide for free: Outcome Tool 1.2 – Special Focus: Dignity of Risk – Meaningful Ageing Australia

About Elizabeth Pringle, Dignity of Risk Guide Author
Elizabeth Pringle has over 20 years management experience in the areas of executive management, [EMP] ageing and spirituality, learning and development and quality management in aged and community services.

Sample Evidence Based References
All full references available at

  • Self-reported spirituality was the strongest predictor of Adjustment to Ageing (AtA) (von Humbolt et al 2014),
  • Spiritual support (both religious and nonreligious) is a vital factor in well-being and quality of life at end of life (Nichols 2013),
  • Spiritual beliefs can affect the strategies people use to cope with illness (George, Koenig & McCullough, 2000; Williams & Sternthal, 2007),