Let people choose their own clothing
Self-expression is so important to us as human beings. Denying (or restricting, even accidentally) clients’ the ability to choose what they wear can be harmful to their dignity. This doesn’t mean you can’t assist them though. With their approval, you can help them dress but let them pick what to wear. This includes being able to make choices. Unless they ask you to, don’t lay an outfit out for them just for the sake of speed. Give them time to select what they would like to wear from their wardrobe.
Involve them in decisions relating to their care
Not involving clients in decisions about their day-to-day care can make them feel disconnected and undervalued. People appreciate being included as it gives them the sense that their opinion and preferences are respected. Therefore, be sure to involve clients in any and all discussions that affect their care. This includes decisions about their medication (e.g. which type to take and how to take it), day-to-day changes (e.g. new staff or changes to the home’s layout), and meal planning (this includes dietary requirements and preferences).
Address the person appropriately
Another crucial part of a person’s identity is their name – it is how we identify one another. Therefore, 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 – can be 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 your client how they would like to be addressed. Similarly, address them with a polite, amiable voice and don’t adopt a patronising tone. They are adults, not children.
Make food look appealing and tasty
For many elderly people, food and mealtimes can be the highlight of their day. Imagine looking forward to something all day only to be presented with a plate that looks unappealing. Involve your client when creating meal plans – they can offer suggestions, including their favourite dishes. Endeavour to become a competent cook, buy fresh, quality ingredients, and make the effort to ensure food is well-presented. Don’t forget we have a food and nutrition group on Carer Community to get lots of good ideas from!
Respect personal space and possessions
The relationship between you and your client should be carefully balanced. It should be a partnership and you will need to take into consideration that you are living in their home. It’s very important to respect their space and possessions.
Don’t move or go through people’s personal belongings without permission. Even when cleaning, remember to respect their possessions and space – ask them if it’s okay for you to move things while you clean. The simple act of asking makes people feel respected and more open to giving you permission and instills trust. Ensure you put everything back where it was when you are finished.
Hygiene and personal care
As a professional, you will be used to seeing people unclothed. For your client, however, this may be uncomfortable. If you are assisting them with personal care, ensure you do so with tact. Understand that they may be self-conscious and very self-aware when undressed.
Make sure you ask for consent before doing anything. Explain what you are doing as you are doing to promote involvement. Engage clients in conversation to make the situation less uncomfortable and always ensure their dignity by covering areas of their body that you are not washing.
Promote social activities
Without a social life, people can feel cut off from the world and isolated. This can be damaging to their sense of identity and dignity. Sometimes this can result in feeling as though they are simply a burden. Having a social life instills people with a sense of purpose and satisfaction, thus improving their quality of life. Try to create opportunities for your client to engage in social activities that are meaningful to them; like having contact with family, eating out with friends, attending clubs they enjoy, etc.
Engage in conversation
Life as a professional carer can be hectic but for an elderly person, it can sometimes be slow or uneventful. Conversation can meet a need for social interaction and can really lift a person’s mood. Let them lead if they want to, and make sure you are actively listening to them. Let them see that their opinions matter to you. It will promote a sense of self-worth.