Ethics in Gerontology

When choosing a profession when leaving school, there are several important factors to keep in mind. Personality factors, aptitude, and likes and dislikes should be taken into account. Those who choose a profession that focuses on the field of aging generally do so out of a desire to care for others in a way that would improve the quality with which they experience live. For me, entering this profession would mean adhering to a very specific set of ethics. These might include the drive to provide care in a way that causes no harm, optimizes the quality of life that the recipient of care might expect, and to ensure that the wishes of the family and the recipient of care are honored for as far as this adheres to the requirement of no harm.

One important factor to keep in mind when considering the ethics related to gerontology is the nature of old age and the effect that this can have on the decision-making process. According to authors Holstein, Parks, and Waymack (2011, p. 3), new thought directions applied to the gerontology profession acknowledges that there may be more dimensions to thinking about old age and autonomy than might have initially been supposed. Indeed, according to the authors, masculinist thinking in the past has dictated ensuring the autonomy of older people in making decisions about the care they receive towards the end of their lives. On the other hand, diseases such as Alzheimer's, commonly associated with old age, may lead to impaired judgment, which would require third parties to make decisions for the impaired person. This acknowledgement is the result of feminist-type thinking, where dominance and/or autonomy are not necessarily the only effective paradigms for graceful and/or happy old age.

As a professional in the field of aging, it is therefore my obligation to be aware of these modes of thought. In other words, I need to be a critical thinker in order to ensure that as little harm as possible come to those in my charge. I therefore need to acknowledge that there is more than one way to view a situation and that each situation has its own merits and challenges. When, for example, I am faced with a case where an elderly person is still in possession of his or her faculties, able to a relative degree to take care of him- or herself, and wishing to remain living in his or her home, I would be unable to disagree that this is probably the course of least harm.

However, there appears to be a general drive to keep older people autonomously housed for as long as possible before entering them into care facilities. While this may make financial sense, I am not sure if it words from a gerontological care point-of-view that requires the professional to follow the course of least harm. Autonomy is not always possible. For persons who can no longer function autonomously, family members or care givers should be obliged to make least-harm decisions for them. Where a family, for example, can no longer care for an elderly relative with Alzheimer's disease, it is probably best…