All individuals regardless of age have a right to be treated with dignity. People often confuse dignity with respect. Dignity according to Donna Hicks Ph.D. is “our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it. Respect, on the
other hand, is earned through one’s actions.” As individuals age they often feel like their value or worth is not as important to others or in some cases they believe it is gone. When this happens it can affect their emotional well-being resulting in depression or other medical conditions.
Seniors in any living environment may experience a lack of dignity, however it is common for those living in long-term care facilities (nursing homes) to feel this way. In the past long-term care facilities were based on a medical model. Although the medical needs of the residents were being meet, often the emotional and psycho-social were not. Today facilities are working toward Person Centered Care. This is where the resident’s wishes become primary in their plan of care.
There are laws and regulations that govern the operation of long-term care facilities. Missouri has a regulation that address dignity and respect. It states;
“Each resident shall be treated with consideration, respect and full recognition of his or her dignity and individually, including privacy in treatment and care of his or her personal needs.”
There are many things that staff can do to help ensure the dignity of their resident’s. Some examples are;
- Call the resident’s by their proper name, not grandma, grandpa, sweetie and so on;
- Having their personal preferences honored, what time they get up/go to bed, what they wear, how they fix their hair;
- Allow residents to do things for themselves even if it takes them longer;
- Explain treatment fully and in terms they can understand;
- Allowing residents to make choices about their life that is important to them.
For seniors still living in the community;
- Allow them to control as much of their life as possible;
- Make them a key participate in any changes to their lifestyle;
- Recognize the loss of independence that often comes with aging (such as having to give up driving, loss of mobility, needing assistance with daily activities), and make accommodations.
- Get them involved in activities to enhance socialization such as attending a Senior Center or Adult Day Care Center.
Another thing that need to be done for both seniors in the community and in long-term care facilities involves validating their sense of worth. This can be accomplished by making regular visits, asking their opinions on issues and simply letting them know how important they are too you.
When you get a “Life Care Plan” as part of your package with “The Weeks Group” the Elder Care Coordinator works to ensure that the dignity of the senior is honored. This is done by connecting the senior with community resources when necessary, advocacy and regular visits by the Elder Care Coordinator to ensure quality of care.