Dignity and respect are the fundamental principles for all types of care provision whether in care homes or people’s own homes. Dignity is a human right that represents the self-worth of an individual. This becomes even more important for people who are vulnerable due to their particular situations. Residential and domiciliary care workers should be capable of providing care in a person-centred way and ensure that the clinical, cultural and spiritual needs, as well as personal preference, are met while maintaining their dignity at all times.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that often people find it difficult to explain the meaning of dignity; however, they can describe situations where their dignity was compromised. Some such examples are:
- Not being addressed appropriately, such as ‘dear’ or by their first name
- Being spoken about as if they were not present or being ignored
- Lack of proper information
- Their wishes not considered
- Being left in soiled clothes
- Lack of privacy and being exposed causing embarrassment
- Lack of help at meal times
- Being left in pain
- Lack of space for peace and quiet
- Unclean premises
- Lack of safety for personal property
- Subject to abuse and neglect
The National Dignity Council has produced Dignity Dos which are a helpful guide as to how dignity can be promoted in all care settings. These are:
- Have a zero tolerance of all forms of abuse
- Support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family
- Treat each person as an individual by offering a personalised service
- Enable people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control
- Listen and support people to express their needs and wants
- Respect people's right to privacy
- Ensure people feel able to complain without fear of retribution
- Engage with family members and carers as care partners
- Assist people to maintain confidence and positive self-esteem
- Act to alleviate people's loneliness and isolation
It is essential that the care workers in all care settings adopt and champion these principles and ensure that the care provided by them is dignified. It is also their individual responsibility to challenge if they come across any behaviours that compromise dignity and respect. Care workers can become Dignity champions and facilitate dignified care in a care setting. Guidance on how to become a Dignity Champion is available on the National Dignity Council website. The council also encourages everyone to celebrate dignity day every year by undertaking activities such as a tea party, activity days, music events, etc. The idea is to highlight the need for dignity and respect and spread the dignity message. Dignity Action day (#DAD2016) is a yearly celebration to uphold rights of people to be treated with dignity and acknowledge their individuality and lived experience.
There are many ways in which the Dignity Action Day can be celebrated. One just needs to use their initiative.
The pledges and activities for 2016 Dignity Action Day (DAD) are on the Dignity in care website http://bit.ly/1PbnYBn Individuals and organisations are encouraged to draw from the examples and pledge their own activities. Do not forgot to update the page with your pledge. The website also has a resource pack and a flyer which can be used to publicise and celebrate this day.
‘Dignity is everyone’s business ’
Dr Rekha Elaswarapu is a dignity champion, and an independent dignity advisor. She is also a trustee of Age UK Ealing and an Associate Fellow at the International Longevity Centre UK. She is a member of the National Dignity Council and National Hydration Forum.
She has acted as a senior policy advisor specialising in older people, nutrition and hydration, dignity and privacy, end of life, long term conditions, user voice and age discrimination with significant experience of government liaison. She was a key player in the development of many national strategies such as Carers Strategy, Stroke Strategy, Nutrition Action Plan, Hydration Action Plan and the Dignity campaign.
With well over fifteen years of experience in health and social care environment, both in policy and regulation as well as research, Rekha brings a wealth of knowledge of the statutory, voluntary and academic sector to help provide joined up solutions for quality improvement.