Dignity Action Day is a key date in the calendar for health and social care workers. It’s a day that seeks to uphold people’s right to dignity, and it presents an opportunity to emphasise the importance of dignity when caring for others.

Here, Ali Porteous, Surrey Care Association, looks at the importance of dignity in care, and offers some advice on finding a service that values this.

Dignity is a crucial consideration when looking to choose a care environment for a loved one.

Whenever someone asks me, ‘What should I be looking for in a care home?’, I always list three things: inclusion, dignity and respect.

When conducting a search for the right facility, be sure to look at how these aspects are integrated in the home. Are they a part of the culture and, if so, how deeply are they ingrained?

At Surrey Care Association, we encourage all our members to work hard to embody these three core principles in their offering. For us, they are the fundamentals of providing high quality care.

What to look out for

Of course, you should always consider the (dare I say it) obvious aspects of care, such as the CQC rating, robust safeguarding procedures, risk assessment and so on. Safety is paramount, but you need to look beyond this and dig below the surface a little.

For instance, you want a home, not a clinical setting. If you enter and it smells like a sterilised hospital rather than where somebody lives, then you need to think, would you be happy to live there? Few people would be happy living in a hospital indefinitely, so you need to ensure that, whilst it’s prepared for all the necessary medical requirements of care, it’s also first and foremost a home.

A good sign of this is the personalisation of somebody’s living space. Look out for the personal touches. Do they have pictures of friends and families on the walls or at their bedside? Are there things specific to the person? Can you see flowers or plants? These are touches that serve to create an environment that’s specific to the individual and one that replicates home life.

Again, this is something that’s prevalent amongst our members’ facilities. CHD Living, for example, has 13 residences throughout Surrey. It is a family-run care home group that looks to instil a family-oriented ethos across its offering. This includes delivering a home-away-from-home experience for its care recipients; one that seeks to help them continue living a life with independence, freedom and choice, whether that be in one of their residences or in the comfort of their own home. The team devises care plans around each individual’s needs. It’s a personalised approach that ensures complete happiness and contentment amongst residents.

An individual approach

Good care is all about the individual. Make sure that, when you are exploring a care offering, the person is at the heart of the home or the facility’s approach to care. The importance of making it ‘person-centred’ really can’t be understated.

The care recipient should also be involved in decision making. Too much power in the hands of a home manager, or even of the care recipient’s family, can strip them of their dignity. The individual should be fully involved in their provision of care where possible. Many homes consult residents, for example, in the formation of their menu – helping to ensure that, come meal times, they’re getting the food that they enjoy. But it’s an approach that should encompass all areas. Requesting and respecting their input fosters a stronger relationship that preserves their dignity.

There are models of care out there that help to reinforce dignity and a person-centred approach throughout a home’s offering. For instance, another of our members, the Huntington & Langham Estate in Hindhead, are firm advocates of both the Butterfly Approach and the Dragonfly Approach – two forms of care that put the person at the centre of what they do.

The Butterfly Approach

Developed by Meaningful Care Matters, this approach focuses on creating a person-centred care culture where people are ‘free to be me’. The model values emotional intelligence, domestic household living, and the core belief that everyone living with dementia has a unique story which has meaning and matters. It is about putting the focus back on people and their emotions by helping carers access the interior world of the person they are caring for.

The Dragonfly Approach

The Dragonfly approach is very similar, but this caters for all care cultures, such as palliative care and hospice services, mental health, learning disability, and generalist health and social care settings.

Although homes don’t need to follow a specific model, having one in place can help to convey the level of importance that’s placed on the individual.

Focusing on dignity in care

To come back to Dignity Action Day then, it’s a day that serves to underline a central element of care that can sometimes be overlooked. It’s all too easy to see the bad headlines in the news, where standards of care have fallen short. However, these aren’t representative of our sector. Our sector is one that champions dignity, and puts it at the heart of what we do.

The fundamental role of a carer is to care, and dignity is integral to good care. When looking at a care environment then, remember to seek out those three primary focuses – inclusion, dignity and respect – and you’ll find one that’s right for you and your loved one.

Ali Porteous is Workforce Project Manager at Surrey Care Association, and has more than 30 years’ experience of working within the social care sector, across Surrey and beyond.