Images of patients in corridors on trolleys, terrible news stories of care homes residents abused and neglected, overworked medical staff, lack of care assistants meaning home visits are down to just 15 minutes… These are the headlines that grab our attention, making us feel angry and upset and quite rightly so. Who’s fault is it? Who’s job is it to fix all this….
On 1st February – Dignity in Action Day – I’d like everybody to take a minute to stop and think about their own role in making sure everybody – every age, every background, every situation – is treated with dignity and respect.
83,816 people are registered as Dignity Champions, I am one of them. But this figure is pitiful when you consider there are 64 million of us in the UK. By signing up to be a champion you agree to support the 10 ‘Dignity Do’s’
- Have a zero tolerance of all forms of abuse
- Support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family
- Treat each person as an individual by offering a personalised service
- Enable people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control
- Listen and support people to express their needs and wants
- Respect people’s right to privacy
- Ensure people feel able to complain without fear of retribution
- Engage with family members and carers as care partners
- Assist people to maintain confidence and positive self-esteem
- Act to alleviate people’s loneliness and isolation
As you can see these not all these sentiments are restricted to those working in the health and care sectors – many reach out to us in all areas of life.
Everyday we will meet people who are feeling isolated or struggling to get their voices heard and we can help by listening, talking, not judging and genuinely caring.
Whilst working in hospitals over the years one of the best projects I ever saw was the ‘Dignity Rooms’. These stores contained all kinds of things:
- appropriate clothing so people weren’t being sent home in hospital gowns gaping open
- toiletries for patients who hadn’t had time to pack any or couldn’t afford them
- new slippers so worn, dangerous old ones could be replaced to reduce risk of falls
- mini food hampers with cup a soups, breakfast cereal and tea/coffee for people to take home so they wouldn’t be without provisions for their first night back home
- books, magazines and puzzlers for patients to enjoy whilst they were in hospital
- twiddlemuffs – specialist dementia support aids to keep patients with dementia interested and occupied to reduce their distress in hospital
These rooms were often stocked through donations and maintained by volunteers and the difference they made to people was incredible – small gestures of humanity making them feel dignified, respected and valued.
So on Dignity in Action Day and going forward please think about your actions: Can you help somebody feel valued? Can you make a difference to somebody who is suffering?
Dignity in Care won’t solve the huge challenges mentioned at the start, the lack of resources in health and insufficient capacity in the care sector but it can encourage us all to make small gestures and changes that make big differences to everyone.
To find out more about Dignity in Action Day or to register to become a Dignity Champion please visit http://www.dignityincare.org.uk/