“Is It Safe?”

October 18, 2013
Dr. Allen Power

“Is it safe?” For those of a certain age, this line will forever be associated with a particularly harrowing scene from John Schlesinger’s 1976 film Marathon Man. In that scene, Sir Laurence Olivier (playing a Nazi war criminal), tortures Dustin Hoffman with a dentist’s drill. Between episodes of inflicted pain, Olivier repeatedly asks if “it” is safe, Hoffman has no idea what he has stumbled into, and the popularity of dentists hit an all-time low.

The irony of the scene for me was the constant questioning about safety in the midst of an interaction that was anything but safe. Can I tie all this into the care of people living with dementia? Just watch me!

For many of the stakeholders involved in Eldercare, “security” means keeping the body safe at all costs. So we focus on downside risk, worrying about falls or unobserved “elopement” from home or nursing home. Are these risks real? You bet. But what is the risk of only focusing on one aspect of security? Can it actually make people feel less secure?

FDR said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” What effect does our fear have on those who live with dementia? And what causes the types of occurrences that we are trying to prevent in the first place?

On Tuesday, November 12th from 3-4:00 pm ET, we will take on the Domain of Security in “Security is More Than an Alarm System,” the third event in the 6-part Eden Alternative webinar series, Creating Well-Being for Those Who Live with Dementia: Alternatives to Medication Use.

We will talk about the many aspects of security, and show how some of our approaches are anything but person-centered. We will show how locks and alarms can actually decrease security, and review other operational aspects of the living environment that can erode it as well.

Finally, we will challenge a couple of concepts: all-or-none thinking and surplus safety. Then, we’ll discuss an important principle that we can use to enhance both security and autonomy (the focus of our fourth webinar), and begin to restore the balance between safety and quality of life.


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