Safety vs. Autonomy in Older Adults: What if Maslow was Wrong?

OCT 19, 2011 at 1:00-4:00pm

Aging services staff are faced with similar dilemmas every day: The diabetic who can’t get enough ice cream. The elder at high risk of falling who refuses to use a walker. How do you balance respect for individual choice and protecting elders from harm?

This presentation will explore the complex issues involved in trying to honor the personal preferences of older adults within the context of a health care/long-term care environment obsessed with “safety.”

The rationale for this emphasis on safety is often Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the pyramid that places “physiological needs” at its base, followed by “safety,” then “love and esteem” and finally “self-actualization.”

Add your voice to our panel discussion as we examine case studies and generate ideas and strategies to help care providers make well-reasoned decisions when the values of autonomy and safety collide. Our panel will include representatives from the field of long-term care: A State Ombudsman, a representative of Seniors and People with Disabilities, and a nursing home administrator.

Learning Outcomes

  • Explore the different meanings of the word “safety” and how it impacts care to older adults
  • Examine the ethical principles that underlie decision-making for older adults
  • Consider the challenges that arise when tension between patient safety and autonomy exists
  • Strategize with other aging services providers about how you can best manage safety/autonomy challenges in the real world of elder care


Theresa (Terri) A. Harvath, Ph.D., RN, CNS, FAAN. Dr. Harvath is a Professor at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing and Director of OHSU’s John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. She is committed to improving the health and health care of frail older adults through the integration of theory, practice and research. Dr. Harvath is particularly interested in exploring the complex clinical issues that often arise in the care of persons with dementia.


Wellspring Medical Center
1475 Mt. Hood Ave
Woodburn, OR 97071


Individual: $25
Organization: $100
(up to 5 attendees per organization)
Student: $20


12:45 p.m.

CE Credit

NHA, ALF/RCF, and AFH CEUs pending


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