Publication Details

Dreyfus, S., Phillipson, L. & Fleming, R. (2018). Staff and family attitudes to fences as a means of detaining people with dementia in residential aged care settings: The tension between physical and emotional safety. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 53 (2), 107-122.


This study investigates staff and family attitudes towardsthe use of the fences that surroun d many aged care facilitiesin Australia, in the context of indefinite detention of peoplewith dementia. This indefinite detention has been describedin a report from an Australian Senate Inquiry as “a signifi-cant problem within the aged care context”, which “is ofteninformal, unregulated and unlawful” . Five focus groupscomprising direct care workers, family members, nurse unitmanagers and facility managers discussed the reasons forand their attitudes towards fences. The results show a ten-sion between the provision of physical and emotional safety.This is to say that even while it is illegal to detain peoplewith dementia against their will, and even while partici-pants understood the negative impact of fences on the well-being and emotional safety of people with dementia, theyaccepted and supported the presence of perimeter fencesbecause they provided the perception that fences kept peo-ple with dementia physically safe. This has implications forredressing the balance between physical and emotionalsafety in policy and practice.



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