The importance of preserving residents’ dignity in care

The UK’s Health and Social Care Act (2008) included a regulation designed to ensure that people receiving care should be treated with respect and dignity at all times.

As explained by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the body that oversees residential care homes, this “includes making sure that people have privacy when they need and want it, treating them as equals…”

Essentially, it is important to remember at all times that people are individuals, to pay attention to their identity and to help them to continue enjoying life and living comfortably.

But how is this applied in practice?

It means paying attention to several key things:

  • Choice and control.
  • Communication.
  • Eating and nutritional care.
  • Pain management.
  • Personal hygiene.
  • Practical assistance.
  • Privacy.
  • Social inclusion.

For example, while our residents may need daily practical help with getting dressed, it is important to let them not only to wear their own clothes, but to choose what they want to wear.

Communication is important. Involving them in decisions about not only choice of clothes but what they wish to eat, managing their conditions if they require treatment, respecting that they may require periods of privacy, are all part of respecting and ensuring that they feel in control of their lives as far as possible.

The maintenance of some degree of personal space can be important in the communal setting of residential care. So, remember to ask permission before entering their rooms or touching treasured possessions.

Similarly, where residents need help with personal hygiene, it is essential to find out if there is anything that makes the individual feel uncomfortable then to try to resolve a way of dealing with it as sensitively as possible.

On the other side of the coin, it is possible for even residents in care homes to become isolated and depressed, so if they have particular interests, providing opportunities to pursue them, such as an art class, participating in a choir, or even caring for plants, can ensure mental well-being and a feeling of self-worth.

Finally, one of the simplest and arguably most obvious ways of ensuring individuality and dignity is to use their names. Ask them how they prefer to be addressed, whether by first name or more formally and if they like or object to terms of endearment such as “dear” or “love” and make sure staff are all made aware of their preferences.