Respect & Dignity for Your Loved One
Helping your loved one maintain a sense of dignity can be one of the most difficult aspects of caregiving.
Take a minute to consider your special role as a caregiver. More than a professional caregiver, you know the person you care for. You know the whole person, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, and their wants and needs.
It's easy to slip into a "protective" role when you care for someone else, especially a family member. However, we need to remember that unless the person is experiencing some cognitive failure (brain damage because of a stroke, dementia, or other health problem), they still make decisions about their life. Sometimes they make decisions that you wouldn't make, but it is their choice. This can be difficult for you as a caregiver; you will need to watch yourself and guard against overprotection.
Among the most important human needs is the desire for respect and dignity. That need doesn't change when a person becomes ill or disabled. Indeed, it may grow even stronger.
There are many things you can do to make sure the person in your care receives the respect and dignity that is every person's basic human right.
Respect Their Privacy, Physically and Emotionally:
Close the door when you help them dress or use the bathroom
Knock before opening a closed door.
Don't discuss confidential information with other people, even family members, without
Respect Their Right to Make Choices:
By making choices we have a sense of control over our life. Let them decide what and when to eat, for example, if they are able.
If they have cognitive problems, offer choices of what to eat, when to eat, and what to wear. If they insist on wearing the same shirt every day, use a protective towel when they eat and wash clothes in the evening.
If they refuse to take medication or make other choices that would be dangerous, try to negotiate possible solutions. Offer pills with a favorite snack (if the prescription allows),
agree to give baths only as often as necessary, arrange for someone to take walks with them if they are unsafe by themselves.
Treat Them with Dignity:
Listen to their concerns.
Ask for their opinions and let them know they are important to you.
Involve them in as many decisions as possible.
Include them in the conversation. Don't talk about them as though not present.
Speak to them as an adult, even if you are not sure how much they understand.
Down East Hospice Volunteers is always here to offer support so never hesitate to reach out to us.
**Originally written and published by the Aging and Adult Services Administration Department of Social and Health Services, state of Washington.