What is dignity in care and why does it matter?

Jun 20, 2022 | Australian Aged Care

We’re all about dignity here at ExSitu. It’s why we work to ensure that dignity of risk is a big part of planning your care plan and advance care plan journey.

But what is dignity in care?

Well, it’s ten principles that provide individuals receiving care with the best possible experience.

Dignity in care principles offer:  

  1. A zero tolerance of abuse
  2. Respect within the care given
  3. An individualised and customised care experience
  4. Autonomy through control, independence and choice
  5. Listening to and activating a person’s wants, needs and wishes
  6. Respecting people’s privacy
  7. A free flow of feedback and criticism without fear of retaliation
  8. A valuable place for the input of loved ones
  9. The opportunity to maintain a care recipient’s confidence and self-esteem
  10. A reduction in isolation and alleviation of loneliness

How does dignity in care influence care planning?

Dignity in care principles are the pillars of the best possible experience of values-based care.

The reason for shifting to values-based care for aged care and palliative care within aged care centres was all about individualising and customising the care experience. It’s a recognition that you cannot plan for every eventuality. But if you know what matters to a person, you have a pretty solid roadmap of how to treat them in care environment.

That roadmap articulates the needs of the person in front of them. It also speaks for a person who loses the ability to advocate for themselves.

When you customise and individualise the care plan, you’re demonstrating that you’ve actively listened to the wants, needs and wishes of the person. Plus, hearing a person’s views on their care means you are starting the process of ensuring autonomy remains through choice and control. All while defining what independence means.

Why does dignity in care matter?

When we have a zero tolerance for abuse, we’re creating safe conditions for the most vulnerable in our society. By demonstrating that no physical, sexual, intellectual, financial or emotional harm can come to a person on our watch, we’re signalling to people they are respected and safe in our care.

When we value the individual’s privacy, whether that’s about their care issues or other topics such as sexuality, race and disability, we’re furthering this commitment to reduce the incidence of abuse. By building an inclusive and safe environment, we’re stating that people are free to experience themselves as they are at all times.

That is incredibly powerful. Especially when someone is facing the impacts of reduced capacity through ageing, illness, disability or disease.

More than that, we’re saying no to depersonalising the person in front of us. We’re making the choice to enact dignity in care in such a way as to reduce the opportunity for intentional or unintentional harm to come to a person.

This safety is the bedrock of a compassionate, functioning experience of care, aged care, end-of-life care and disability. On a wider scale, it also has the potential to reduce and even remove ageism and ableism from our society.

How does dignity in care promote individual wellbeing?

By placing dignity in care principles at the front of mind, we have a genuine opportunity to respect the individual properly. With dignity of risk, we look at what an individual may be interested in sacrificing in order to maintain their dignity. This is the time when the individual says what risks are worth taking to remain connected to their own personal identity.

Dignity in care principles ensures that we as the care providers, loved ones and community understand we too have an obligation to the care of the individual. We’re ensuring that a person is valued, listened to and in charge as much as practical. But it also means we’re remembering the individual in front of us as a vibrant, functioning, feeling human being entitled to feel confident, vital and in control.

If the growing Disability Pride and Age Pride movements are anything to go by, the days of administering care with little or no input from the person receiving it are over. This is a fantastic change in the way we perceive, enact and speak about care.

The ageing and disability processes don’t have to be synonymous with a reduction in autonomy or independence. It doesn’t have to feature stigma or shame. And it doesn’t have to pass under a veil of secrecy.

And it also means that with greater pride comes:

  • Greater disclosure of issues prior to them becoming difficult to manage or passing points of no return
  • The ability to provide greater care options to the individual by normalising early disclosure in this way
  • Better ability to provide care that is meaningful through open discussion and enabling the community around the individual as a result.

What can we do to ensure dignity in care at all times?

As individuals working in the care industry – or as the friends and family with someone in a care situation, we have a role to play.

We can speak up against issues where we see the individual is not receiving the kind of care that supports their dignity. We can also act as role models within society and take the principles of dignity in care to the mainstream.

After all, don’t we all benefit from an abuse-free, respectful and connected society? One that listens well while also maintaining a person’s confidence, privacy and right to safety?

To make the conversation about dignity in care and what it looks like, ExSitu have tools that can help. Working with ExSitu to provide care plans and articulate the needs, wants and wishes of the individual via a care plan is something everyone can do. So too, ExSitu’s Hierarchy of Values is a terrific way to ensure dignity in care at any age by articulating the individual’s values.

It’s a process that doesn’t have to begin when a person enters an aged care facility. Indeed, we believe that all Australians over the age of forty would benefit from having a care plan in place, just in case. Especially if you have children, pets, property, a partner, or care for someone else that relies on you. Or you want the same dignity and choice you’ve experienced in life to be afforded you if you have an accident or face illness, disability or disease prior to old age.

Leading by example to articulate your care wishes is one of the most meaningful displays of allyship for people in a care environment possible. So too is speaking up about the industry with the wider society while also influencing your peers in care roles. Talking about the role of dignity in treatment as it defines both care and risk while normalising the concept is incredibly powerful.

Bring dignity in care to your workplace and life – check out ExSitu care plans and the Hierarchy of Values now.

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