Department of Human Services

Assist people to maintain confidence and positive self-esteem - principle 9

Confidence arises in many ways: from jobs well done, loving families, success at what we attempt. It's also something that can be gained when people feel safe in their own homes, using equipment that's appropriate for them, and receiving the kind of support that ensures they're not at risk.

Self-esteem comes from within, but is sensitive to external forces. We'll look at these separately here.

Remember, too, that our responsibility to 'assist to maintain' rather than to 'create' confidence and self-esteem. We can't create them but we need to know that we can damage them.

Safety promotes confidence

People's confidence can increase when they are in a safe physical environment with:

  • places to sit
  • hand rails
  • reduced visual clutter
  • locks on doors
  • reduced noise pollution
  • no trip hazards.

It's important, too, to adhere to safe mealtime practices. Dysphagia (swallowing problems) affects many people and can be life-threatening. We can help people feel confident about both eating a meal and enjoying the experience by offering appropriate meals and beverages that cater both for the person's palate and their physical ability to chew and swallow.

People also feel more confident when they are using properly prescribed and maintained equipment and tools. Occupational and physiotherapists make a big difference here, as do staff of the Independent Living Centre (ILC). The ILC in South Australia, and across the country, showcases many assistive devices that can help people with disability work, play in and manipulate their world with greater ease.

Independent Living Centre

Confidence boosters

Moving through the day and the world with confidence is easier when someone knows they are successfully managing any continence issues.

The Continence Resource Centre provides such services as:

  • information and advice on continence management and services
  • a product display including toileting equipment and adaptive clothing
  • fact sheets, brochures, videos, CDs and books
  • health promotion activities
  • education sessions and seminars.

It's great when people can go out for drives, use their own scooter and wheelchair to get to shops and appointments, and socialise with others in public places, knowing that they won't experience embarrassment around bladder or bowel functions.

Other items covered in previous Dignity in Care principles also build confidence:

Identity and cultural awareness

Everyone likes to have their own things around them, their own sense of identity in the space they occupy.

That sense of identity helps build confidence and can be especially important to Aboriginal peoples, Torres Strait Islanders and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Check out:

Support staff need to be aware of cultural sensitivities. Among other methods that can be employed to bolster cultural confidence, organisations can:

  • provide décor that is culturally derived
  • offer some speciality meals featuring cuisine special to that person
  • engage interpreters when explanations are needed, and even for times when people we are supporting would like to have a conversation in their first language
  • provide books, television access and DVDs in the person's preferred language(s), as well as outings to cultural events
  • help provide a sense of familiarity by putting favourite things in the person's room
  • show respect to cultural icons, including everything from religious artefacts to the LGBTQI Rainbow Flag.

Assisting to maintain self-esteem

Young man with Down syndrome studyingSelf-esteem is helped when people feel that:

  • they're contributing to the society in which they live
  • they're valued for themselves
  • they enrich the lives of people in their social circle in their unique role as uncle, best friend, granny, mentor, father, confidante, grandson, wife and so on
  • they're presenting their 'best face' to the world (take care over a person's make-up, grooming, hygiene and clothing)
  • their dignity as a human being is being maintained.

It's very important to speak to clients respectfully, and to find out if they prefer 'Mrs Jones', 'Susan' or 'Sue'. (Many people do not appreciate being called 'darling', 'love', 'dear' and so on.)

Support workers should speak to each person directly and not through their family or carer. Always explain to the person before you act if you need to touch, move or medicate them. And we should all speak about the people we support respectfully, without personal remarks or gossip.

Checklist for principle 9 – assisting confidence and self-esteem

Ask yourself while you read this checklist as Dignity in Care Champions: can my workplace answer 'Yes' to all the questions below?

  1. Do we provide an environment in which clients can move safely, and which they can travel from and return to with confidence?
  2. Do we follow practices that ensure our clients can eat, drink, bathe, be alone and participate in activities with confidence?
  3. Are we competent providers of continence services where appropriate?
  4. Do we encourage and support clients to participate in training or education? Work? Social activities? And do we do this without imparting a sense that it's burdensome to us for them to do this?
  5. Do we acknowledge and recognise cultural identity, histories and opportunities?

If we do all these things and more, we are helping to make the lives of people we support more meaningful and satisfying to them.

Maintaining confidence and self-esteem – it's about recognising and acting to serve the humanity and individuality of the people with and for whom we work.

Email if you would like to become a Dignity in Care champion or need further information.

Page last updated : 14 Feb 2020

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