Invitation to Dissent: Being Person-Centered in a Pandemic-Closing the Integrity Gap [PDF]


Photo of Carol Blessing

Carol Blessing

As we enter the second quarter of 2020 we find ourselves in extended quarantine because of the coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19. At the moment, there is no end in sight.

This virus does not discriminate. Everyone is vulnerable to the risk of illness and even death. As a result, we all must take precautions like practicing social distancing, frequent hand-washing and limiting forays into the community outside of our front doors. Around the globe, the freedom to come and go at will has been restricted and in some cases, revoked.

What does this mean for people living with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who rely on residential service options? How does decision-making under pressure impact the supports- and the messages – they are receiving about their rights and responsibilities?

Research shows that, in the face of crisis, people tend to default to narrow or myopic thinking or revert to unconscious confirmation bias and groupthink. When this happens, bias becomes amplified despite prior training or other experiences that suggest we should ‘know better.’ An example of this can be seen in human service organizations that claim to be “person-centered” and value self-determination but in times of crises, revert to claiming full control over and in the lives of the people who are in their care. The result is an integrity gap; a phenomenon in which a response to a given situation goes in the opposite direction of espoused values. We say one thing but our behavior tells a different story.