Ethical dilemmas: balancing choice and risk with a duty of care in extending personalisation into the care home

Emma Miller, Karen Barrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


The article reports the perspectives of senior care staff as part of a study exploring personalisation in care homes. Behind the conceptual sword and shield of 'choice and control' associated with personalisation in the United Kingdom (UK) lie irreconcilable flaws, thrown into sharp relief in this context. Personalisation, which originated in community-based social services, has recently been extended into UK care homes. This service development has been stimulated by a desire to promote a humane response to caring for an ageing population, whilst containing costs. Seemingly promoting a relational approach, personalisation also entails consumerist underpinnings, with consequent tensions resulting in weakened policy mechanisms. Discussing findings pertaining to 'food and eating', the article illustrates the complex interplay between supporting resident capabilities with poor staff ratios; when choice is not really choice at all; balancing choice, risk and the duty of care; and responding to diverse perspectives about what matters. This complexity reflects the highly skilled nature of care work as promoted by care ethicists. The tensions permeated care home life and found parallels in the wider system of care. Honesty about the limitations of choice and control is essential to achieve ethical care in care homes. The care home constitutes fertile ground for exposing and exploring the shortcomings of the 'logic of choice' and for advancing a more relational, inclusive and sustainable conceptualisation of personalisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalAgeing and Society
Early online date11 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Dec 2020


  • personalisation
  • personal outcomes
  • consumerism
  • ethic of care
  • care homes


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