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Examining Risks and Benefits to Enhance Quality of Life

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Getting Started 

These teaching strategies focusing on assessment and making situational decisions enhance the student's spirit of inquiry and development of professional judgment. 

Questions to Consider when Discussing Risks and Benefits with Older Adults:

  1. Which of these two statements is most important to you?
    • I want to live as long as possible regardless of the quality of life that I experience.
    • I want to preserve a good quality of life even if this means that I may not live too long.
  2. Do you feel you have full autonomy on decision making?
  3. How do you feel when people make decisions for you?
  4. What do you see as important in your life?
  5. What risks have been identified to you that you agree or disagree with?
  6. What risks have you taken in the past and how has this affected you?
  7. What is your understanding of the risks you want to take now?
  8. What risks are you not willing to take?
  9. How would you explain to the people who love you why you want to take this risk?
  10. What frightens you about taking this risk?

Journaling: Have students keep a journal of risks they take every day and how they may think about these risks in terms of the benefits they reap. Encourage them to also examine their own feelings and motivations when others may have opinions on the risks they take and what considerations they think about before taking the risks. Examples of risks that students take may include driving, flying, smoking, diet, exercise, and travel. This exercise can also be done in a large group with risks written on a board and discussed as above. Have students look at older adults in the course of clinical in a week, and identify risks that were or were not taken and the discussions that were or were not held around the topic.

Concept Map: In a group discussion, use a concept map to describe risks which may occur in an identified older adult and how to assess these risks using the How to Try This Series. This could lead into a discussion on how intervening with only the goal of safety can affect quality of life. Students should be able to look at improvising interventions, collaborating with clients and families, and develop talking points with both clients and members of the health care team in regard to risks and benefits of situational decision making. Have students write down two considerations they had not thought of before when looking at risks and benefits in caring for older adults.

Interview: Have students interview an older adult asking questions about how quality of life is perceived and about what risks the person is willing to take or has taken to preserve that quality of life. The interview might also include questions about how they felt when they were not permitted to make certain decisions. Students should consider assessment tools from the How to Try This Series to fully assess risk, benefits, and safety.

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