Very often it’s the little things that make the difference.
One vital aspect of patient care in any situation, be it the home, a hospital or a care facility, is maintaining the dignity of your patients. This is achieved in a number of ways, many of them simple, everyday actions that take very little extra effort on the part of the OT. In the rush of making sure we attend to all our patients’ needs, it can be easy to forget that it’s very often the little things that make the biggest difference to a patient’s sense of wellbeing. Here are three tips for maintaining dignity throughout your care.
This is the area most commonly associated with dignity, and rightly so. Caring for a patient often involves potentially embarrassing situations such as washing and changing them. If you are required to perform these tasks, ensuring that they have a level of privacy that helps them feel comfortable is vital. In a home situation this may simply mean locking a door, or pulling a curtain. In a more public situation such as a care home or hospital, moving to a private space, or using the curtains to shield your patient will help maintain their privacy.
From chatting about the weather or the news, to explaining the procedure you are about to carry out and gaining consent, communication is essential to maintaining your patients’ dignity. Social interaction is vital to a patient’s sense of wellbeing; remember that a five-minute chat with you might be one of your patient’s only interactions throughout the day. Don’t forget to address them by their name – this makes a difference to their sense of autonomy as well. When providing treatment or undergoing a procedure such as changing their seating position, make sure to explain at every stage what is going to happen, and check they are happy for you to continue. By communicating in this way you help the patient feel respected and involved in their care.
While many of your patients will be restricted in what they can do, offering choice where possible will go a long way to maintaining their sense of dignity. This can be as simple as asking them what clothes they would like to wear, or what position they would like their seating changed to. Try to think of all the areas where that patient could exercise choice in their routine; from what medication to take when, to meal planning and even the television channel. Feeling in control will go a long way to helping maintain a patient’s dignity and a sense of wellbeing.