In the healthcare sector, the word 'dignity' is one that regularly appears in job adverts, books and legislation, but what do we mean by the word 'dignity'? Dignity in care means the kind of care, in any setting, which supports and promotes, and does not undermine, a person's self- respect.
There are several things nurses, carers and other health professionals can do to uphold dignity - and they're usually small and seemingly inconsequential things. However, to a person who has resigned the majority of their independence to a stranger, they are everything.
There are 8 factors related to dignity identified by the Social Care Institute for Excellence:
Choice and control
Think of the choices you make as you get ready in the morning for work: what exact time you'd like to wake up, what you'll wear, when you'll leave the house. For most of us, dressing ourselves is a very personal and private activity. Personal taste and style have a huge part to play in our identities as individuals. Allowing someone in your care to choose their own clothes is one way of promoting dignity.
Speaking to people respectfully and listening to what they have to say; ensuring clear dialogue between workers and services.
Ensure you're addressing the person in your care by their preferred name. This may not be their full name and might be a nickname, for example.
Is food easy to eat? Does it look appealing? Does the person eating have the right amount of privacy they need? These are the questions you need to answer when a service user is eating. Everyone has a different relationship with food and this needs to be taken into account.
Pain levels vary from person-to-person. Studies indicate that older people are more likely to experience pain but less likely to complain or request medication. Restlessness, social isolation, and avoidance are just a few examples of symptoms associated with pain.
A person’s appearance is integral to their self-respect and older people need to receive appropriate levels of support to maintain the standards they are used to.
Personal hygiene includes:
Washing, bathing, showering
Oral hygiene and denture care
Body and facial hair removal
Nail care, including chiropody and podiatry
Using the toilet and continence needs
Dressing and undressing
- Having a clean home is particularly important to older women in terms of maintaining their dignity and self-respect (Godfrey et al., 2000).
- A little bit of help can make a big difference. This includes low-level, flexible services such as help with cleaning, ironing, garden maintenance, foot care and assistance with caring for pets (JRF, 2005).
- People receiving practical help such as ‘small housing repairs, gardening, limited assistive technology or shopping’ report significant improvements in quality of life (Henwood and Hudson, 2008).
In older age, slowing down and deteriorating health are two factors that some elderly people find difficult to come to terms with. If a person has a reasonable desire for privacy, there is no need to ignore that person's wishes without a compelling reason to do so.
Social inclusion is intertwined with quality of life and independence. Opportunities to participate, and make a positive contribution to community and society, are integral to autonomy and therefore dignity. Talking to and encouraging service users to socialise.
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