Dignity Action Day – Championing Dignity in Care During a Pandemic
Ahead of Dignity Action Day on 1st February, our staff and Dignity Champions, Debbie Long and Angela Ryan, shared their thoughts on what dignity in care means and how we’ve ensured we’re delivering it during a global pandemic.
“Ultimately, I think dignity in care is being kind and listening and if the pandemic has given us one thing, it’s a bit more time to listen,” says Debbie, a social activities facilitator at Barnes Lodge Care Home in Tonbridge. “We used to plan activities in advance but with many of those unable to take place, we started to ask residents on the day, what they wanted to do. Sometimes we read and discuss the morning paper, or bake something that one of the residents used to enjoy preparing for their family, we also do a lot of reminiscence activities, all of which prompt a discussion between the group.”
Angela Ryan, a former carer who now works in the learning and development team at head office agrees that whilst it’s been a challenging year for the sector, dignity has remained at the heart of what we do. “I’ve seen some excellent examples of upholding dignity in the past year, from reminiscing about wedding days to opening up a salon run by staff when the hairdresser couldn’t visit. Our staff have really worked so hard to ensure their residents can stay in touch with loved ones this year too, either with window visits, video calls or more recently, creating safe and warm indoor spaces. Dignity means different things to different people but it is mostly about treating people how they want to be treated and offering choice.”
“Choice is so important,” concurs Debbie, “we should never assume we know what our residents want, for example, someone may always drink tea but they still might decide to have a coffee instead one day, so we should ask and not just make the cup of tea. Quite often it’s the little things that make a difference. We have a lady who prefers not to join in with flower arranging, so I organise a bunch for her then take them to her room, which she loves. We also have a lady who doesn’t like to visit the salon, so when she was due a visit from her family, I took the curling tongs along to her room and helped her get ready.”
But it’s not just about the residents, as Angela says, upholding dignity is important amongst staff too. “I think it’s about keeping that community spirit between the team. A great example of that is when Sue Ferry, a carer at our Northfleet care home returned to work after being hospitalised with Covid-19. It was early in the pandemic and Sue was one of the first of our staff to contract Covid-19 and to be so poorly. Her team rallied around her, checked in on her and bought her flowers, applauding her on her return to work. Another example is the Fancy Dress Fridays our Watling Court team started at the beginning of lockdown, in a bid to lift spirits. Each Friday, the staff and residents got dressed up based around a different theme, whether it was glamour, sports day or Hawaiian, the event grew week on week and promoted a real sense of togetherness, at a time when we had to be apart.”
Rapport Housing & Care is encouraging its staff to become Dignity Champions and a training course is available. “I’d love to have Dignity Champions across all of our homes,” adds Angela, “they reflect our values and look out for opportunities to promote dignity and also look at things we may be able to do differently, so it’s a really important role.”
“I’ve always cared for people and had a particularly close relationship with my nan, so I was drawn to the dignity unit when I was part of the organisation’s training academy, ACE: Centre of Excellence,” Says Debbie. “When we have new starters, I try to take them under my wing and inspire them to look at things in a different way, I just think it’s so important to consider dignity and the little things when supporting our residents.”