Balancing rights and risks: Conflicting perspectives in the management of wandering in dementia

L. Robinson*, D. Hutchings, L. Corner, T. Finch, J. Hughes, K. Brittain, J. Bond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

148 Citations (Scopus)


Current Government recommendations in England suggest a national approach to risk management but, in an increasingly litigious society, how do professional carers balance risk management with the promotion of a person-centred approach in dementia care? Wandering behaviour can be both beneficial and harmful to a person with dementia and generate considerable emotional distress in their carers. This study combined a systematic review and qualitative research methods to explore the perspectives of different stakeholders in the management of wandering in dementia. A major theme for carers was the conflict between the prevention of harm and the facilitation of a person's right to autonomy. Such tensions also impacted on carers' abilities to provide person-centred care. This dilemma was highlighted through the use of assistive technologies such as electronic tracking devices. Interestingly, people with dementia felt that the use of such technology placed them at greater risk, i.e. as a target to theft, than the process of wandering itself. They spoke of their need for independence and their concern over carer surveillance and the identity of 'big brother.' There is a need to develop practical tools for managing risk within dementia care which allow all perspectives to be captured and risk management to be negotiated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-406
Number of pages18
JournalHealth, Risk and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


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