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Department of Human Services

Support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family - principle 2

Ways to support people with respect

A woman undertakes therapy with a support worker standing by.Support people in a courteous and considerate manner. Make time to get to know them.

Support people who are receiving services to be partners in decision-making about the care and support they receive.

Encourage and support people to be responsible for managing their own care (with support workers, and family and friends functioning as carers, giving information and service when needed).

Ways to improve support with respect

Treating people with respect is fundamental to training and induction for all staff (including domestic and support staff). Follow up training with supervision and zero tolerance of negative attitudes towards people.

Provide a service that revolves around people, not around services or tasks.

Ask people who use services how they would like to be addressed and respect their choice.

Use reminiscence activities to support people with dementia in maintaining their identity.

Include 'time to talk' in care plans so people have the chance to voice concerns or just have a chat.

Involve people in service planning, and show respect for their views by putting their ideas and suggestions into action.

A carer interacts with a man with disability.Dignity checklist

  1. Are we polite and courteous even when under pressure?
  2. Is our culture about caring for people and supporting them rather than being about 'doing tasks'?
  3. Do our policies and practices emphasise that we should always try to see things from the perspective of the person using the service?
  4. Do we ensure people who use services are not left in pain, or feeling isolated or alone?

(Source: Social Care Institute for Excellence, UK)

A family story of respect

My parents live in a retirement village that provides independent living and respite services. My father had a stroke eight years ago and is blind; my mother is usually his carer.

My father was in respite for two weeks recently while my mother recovered from being hospitalised. On the night of her hospital discharge, my sister took my father to visit my mother so he would be reassured that she was home. When he arrived at home, my mother pointed out that he had his shirt (a polo shirt) on backwards and that he hadn't shaved. He responded by saying 'They don't know how to look after me in respite. I'll come home.'

an electric razor with the cord coiled around itMy mother explained that she was still too weak to resume caring for him and needed another week to recover. My father was very unhappy on the journey back to the respite unit and said to my sister, "I'm just a burden on everyone. They don't know how to care for me and I've become too much for your mother and now she's sick. This is no way for a man to live. I want to die".

So, here's the lesson: we should never assume how a person might respond to an event that affects how they are perceived by others. My father comes from an era when men went for a Sunday drive wearing a shirt and tie. A normal morning routine was always to shower, shave and dress well. Personal presentation was important, particularly if you were expecting guests. Sitting in the common room of the respite service meant there would be many 'guests', be they other residents, or their visitors or staff. How did these people perceive this unshaven man with his shirt on backwards? Did they think of him as someone with dementia or some other mental health problem? He has neither condition; he still has an active mind and is a great conversationalist.

The staff at the retirement village are all very friendly and supportive, but no one had taken the time to help my father to adjust his shirt, or to plug in his shaver, turn it on and put it in his hand. I am sure they would not have anticipated how five minutes of support to ensure 'Dignity in Care' for my father would have avoided his expressing a wish to end his life. Dignity in Care should never be underestimated or explained away as 'just common sense'. Considering the dignity of the person and treating them as we would wish to be treated ourselves must underpin everything we do.

Frank Walsh, former Director of Nursing Highgate Park

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

Page last updated : 04 Dec 2019

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