Your Duties as a Caregiver: Duty of Care

Your Duties as a Caregiver: Duty of Care

Duty of Care is defined simply as a legal and moral obligation to act in the best interest and safety or well-being of individuals and others, whilst at the same time respecting their needs and choices. This means that you should not go beyond your own level of competence and not do anything you aren’t confident doing. Common examples include:

  • Moving your loved one around without the right level of strength and training
  • Giving medication, without proper guidance
  • Leaving someone alone, when you know you really ought not
  • Failing to take steps to protect someone from themselves, physically, emotionally or financially

Who has a duty of care?

Everyone has a duty of care. Whether you are a member of the public, individual, an employer or a family member, you are responsible. In public liability law, a person can only sue for injury or damage if someone breached a duty of care, so most of the time you are safe doing what you think is reasonable.

Where can this get tricky?

This can be difficult, specifically when your duty of care to safeguard the wellbeing of an individual is in conflict with your duty to promote the individual’s right to take risks and make their own decisions. This leads to dilemmas like:

  • What to do you do when a diabetic wants to eat lots of chocolate?
  • What if you loved one doesn’t want to receive the care they need
  • How do you manage a person wanting to manage their own shopping budget, without the mental capacity to do so

We have kept our examples light here, your dilemma will be very different.

What should you do, when faced with a dilemma?

At the root of almost all the duty of care dilemmas you may come across, is poor communication. People just don’t want to have difficult conversations, so they avoid them. As a person taking on the responsibility for a loved one, this makes it incredibly important you bite the bullet and have them. Many professional carers find these conversations easier when they list all their questions down and plan out the conversations in advance. Once you have understood the facts you should:

  1. Exercise your best judgment: You are, shockingly, now the expert in this specific situation, so your judgment is absolutely key
  2. Share with others: Other may have come across similar situations, so seek out their guidance. There is a huge amount of guidance out there for you to read. You can also ask more directly on sites like Quora, on Facebook groups about the elderly or condition you are dealing with, or from your friends and family.
  3. Seek professional guidance: Sometimes a professional view is useful. Your carer will have a good understanding, form their training and experience, of what normally happens and what most people do.
  4. Seek legal guidance: In the most complex situations, you may come across a legal issue, so be sure to seek legal help on that.

Making decisions about a person’s care, welfare and capacity is very complex, see our piece on mental capacity for details.

When someone has the capacity to make decisions they must be listened to and their wishes considered and maybe compromises and option made. A person’s level of vulnerability and corresponding needs can change very quickly, so these decisions should be assessed on a regular basis. 

There are government acts and policies that also serve as a guide, which you can find here. The CQC also has some excellent, if a little carer focused, guidance as well.

If you have found this useful or if we have gotten anything wrong, please do let us know. And if you have any questions, please get in touch, by clicking on the chat icon to the right of your screen, or by going to the contact us section.