What are the Hidden Dangers of Surplus Safety?

June 13, 2012
Kavan Peterson, Editor, ChangingAging.org

The 6th Eden Alternative International Conference in Grand Rapids included a unique pre-conference session May 30 featuring Dr. Bill Thomas and a panel of long term care experts offering a half-day masters-level course on the hidden dangers of Surplus Safety.

If you attended the last Eden Alternative international conference in 2010, Dr. Thomas offered an exclusive first look at the concept of Surplus Safety, which he was developing at the time. Now, Surplus Safety has become a central philosophy for culture change advocates and a core component of creating a life worth living. It is directly tied to every aspect of life in a nursing home and other long term care settings, including walking, eating, sleeping and even going to the bathroom.

So what is Surplus Safety? Surplus Safety refers to the practice in health care of reducing risk at all costs. In health care risk is a bad, scary word. But what is risk really? Risk simply means the outcome of an action may result in something unexpected. The unexpected result could be bad, which is called “downside risk.” Risks can also result in positive, meaningful experiences — the kind of experiences that make life worth living. This is upside risk.

Check out this video recap of the masters-level education session on The Hidden Dangers of Surplus Safety, featuring Dr. Thomas, Wendi Middleton, Director of Program and Partnership Development at the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, Carmen Bowman, owner of Edu-Catering and Dr. Judah Ronch, dean of the UMBC Erickson School of Aging in a powerful discussion of how we prevent good things from happening when we focus too much on what can go wrong.


 

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