44. CASE: Whose Business Is It?

Brent Wathorn, 78, has been living at Halfway Lake Manor for about 6 years. His main complaint has been that he is lonely and has had difficulty connecting with the other residents. This has been a source of distress for staff at times, as they would like him to feel more ‘at home.’

Norma Carkner, 75, moved to the Manor about a month ago. She has limited cognitive abilities as the result of a stroke, but is still able to express herself reasonably well and make some choices if given enough time.

Staff members have noticed that Brent and Norma have been spending much time together and have found them kissing on occasion. While there is no evidence of a sexual relationship beyond this, some of the staff is quite concerned about the possibility.

Given his loneliness, they wonder if Brent may be putting pressure on Norma. Other staff point out how happy both Brent and Norma seem together. Much of the discussion has focused on whether and to what extent they should intervene or say something to family members.

  • What values/assumptions might be at play here for staff members?
  • What ethics concerns are you considering in this scenario?
  • Should the staff discourage this relationship?
  • Should the staff notify Brent and/or Norma’s family about the relationship?

Some Values and Ethics Issues to Consider

  • Honesty, trust and truth-telling
  • Compliance with policies and procedures
  • Respect for privacy and confidentiality
  • Respect for patient autonomy
  • Respect for dignity
  • Quality of life

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