Exploring the Ethical Decision-Making Processes of Community Care Providers
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While there has been a recent shift away from isolated, institutionalized living conditions, persons with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) may still experience restricted access to choice when it comes to making decisions about the basic aspects of their lives. A tension remains between protecting individuals from harm and promoting their right to independence and personal liberties. This tension creates complex questions and ethical concerns for care providers supporting persons with ID. This study explored the ethical decision-making processes of care providers and specifically, how care providers describe the balance of protecting supported individuals from harm while promoting their right to self-determination. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six care providers employed by a local community agency that supports young and older adults with ID. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and broader themes were developed following phases of open and selective coding. Results indicated that care providers described ethical decision-making processes as frequent, complex, subjective, and uncomfortable. All participants described the importance of promoting independent decision-making among the individuals they support and assisting supported individuals to make informed decisions. Participants also reported work colleagues and supervisors as primary sources of information when resolving ethical concerns. This suggests that complex ethical decision-making processes are being taken seriously by care providers and supervising staff. The results of this study are well-positioned to be applied to the development of a training program for frontline care providing staff supporting individuals in community care settings.