The hidden impact of not caring with dignity

Dignity. When we speak of dignity, we generally are concerned with how a person feels, thinks and behaves in relation to their own self and that of the people around them. It is as essential to human life as water, food and oxygen. It is our willingness to live, love and have light enter our life.

So, what does it mean to those working in the aged care sector? Within a caring environment we show dignity by the little things that can make a person’s day; like respecting privacy and through simple questions to gain permission to do something for them. It’s about considering the cultural and personal background of those we work for and with: showing an interest, respecting different beliefs and celebrating the skills, knowledge, personalities and interests we all bring to the table. When we show respect to others, we find we have a better day. The responses we get back from others are friendlier, happier and more dignified.

The Dignity in Care program states, “To treat someone with dignity is to treat them in a way that is respectful of them and as valued individuals. In a care situation, dignity may be promoted or lessened by physical environment, organisation cultures, attitudes and behaviour of the nursing team or others. When dignity is present, people feel in control, valued, confident, comfortable and able to make decisions for themselves.”

But what does it mean to us at home or in our family relations? How can we help?

Dignity and respect is important to every one of us and it is about ensuring others are treated in ways we would like for ourselves in the main. It is also about ensuring we are expecting it. Dignity is a willingness. Human dignity is something that can’t be taken away, however, it can be given up on if we are in the wrong frame of mind.

Getting old and tired. Being weighed down by stresses. Not feeling very loved. Being sick and not feeling like there are ways out of the maze to a healthier lifestyle all sound like depressive traits, but they can affect our natural expectations of how we should be treated with dignity.

When we are closer to a person we see signs; signs they no longer care. We might see it as a person not caring about their appearance or not wishing to shower. This does not mean we should not respect their need for dignity. In fact, in these situations it may need us to step up and show more – and by sheer demonstration we re-instill their own dignity back into them.

A great Mother Teresa saying to live by is, “If you give the world the best you have, you may get kicked in the teeth but give the world the best you have anyway.

How about if we see someone’s their teeth falling out, we put their teeth back in? Compassion.

Around us daily are things that happen to us. They happen to those we love. When they happen and we deal with using compassion and/or respect – they become an easier burden. They become something we work through with dignity.

A close family member has the ability to explain a family member’s dignity to another in a caring environment (like a hospital for example), and this may help speed treatment, responses etc. eg “She wasn’t like this last month, last year, last week… she held her head high then.” Or perhaps we should just assume she was better and held her head high with dignity last month, last year or last week and we just get on with helping.

It makes the whole experience much easier to bear. For all involved parties.

What do you think?

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