One of the times at which people are most in danger of losing their dignity and self-respect is when they need health or social care services. These services are provided when people are at their most vulnerable and so respect for dignity is particularly important. If people feel their identity and value as a human being is not respected, this can stop them from enjoying life and living comfortably during a period of care. In this blog piece, we’ll be covering the many ways to promote dignity in care – the things that matter most to people.
Methods for upholding dignity are usually small, seemingly inconsequential things, but to a person who has resigned the majority of their independence to a stranger, they mean the world. Let’s take a look at a few examples on ways to promote dignity in care:
Addressing the user correctly
A small but crucial part of a person’s identity is their name. Names are literally how we identify one another! So making assumptions about which title or name a person would like to be addressed by – even if you think your assumption is the polite choice – is disrespectful to their identity, which in turn damages dignity.
This is particularly important for the elderly, many of whom have certain expectations about how people should refer to them. So always ask a patient how they’d like to be addressed. And on a similar note, address them with a polite, amiable voice; do not adopt a patronising tone. They’re adults, not children.
Engage in friendly conversation
Your life as a caregiver probably feels very chaotic, especially if you have to run back and forth between several people a day. But for a person in care, it could be quite boring or uneventful. You likely talk to dozens of people throughout the day – including other caregivers and service users – but depending on their circumstances; many residents in the care home might only talk to one person a day: you.
A five or ten minute chat will fulfil their craving for social interaction and lift their spirits. Let them lead the conversation if they want to, but don’t just nod along until you have an opportunity to leave. Really listen and interact with them; show interest in what they have to share.
Respect personal space
Respecting residents’ privacy in a care home is of utmost importance: being in such close quarters with strangers can already feel claustrophobic without your lack of consideration. So unless they are incapable of giving permission or it’s an emergency, always knock or ask to come in before entering a person’s room. Likewise, don’t move or rifle through people’s personal belongings without permission. The simple act of asking makes people feel respected and more open to giving you permission, and instils trust. Be sure to put everything back where it was when you’re done.
Being in a care home can leave a person feeling shut off from the outside world. Particularly for those who have an extroverted personality, this can be extremely stifling and damaging to their identity and dignity. They end up feeling like they are simply a task for caregivers to complete; like a burden.
Having a social life instils them with a sense of purpose and satisfaction, thus improving their quality of life. So you should take it upon yourself to create opportunities for people in your care to engage in social activities. Contact with family, eating out with friends, or getting involved in local groups are all good examples. Also, encourage them to adopt hobbies and provide them with the means and equipment to do so, such as knitting or art supplies.
Tips for communication in practice
- If a person using the service does not speak English, translation services should be provided in the short term and culturally appropriate services provided in the long term.
- Staff should be properly trained to communicate with people who have cognitive or communication difficulties.
- Provide information material in an accessible format (in large print or on DVD, for example) and wherever possible, provide it in advance.
- Ask people how they prefer to be addressed and respect their wishes.
- Don’t assume you know what people want because of their culture, ability or any other factor – always ask.
- Ensure people are offered ‘time to talk’, and a chance to voice any concerns or simply have a chat.