Dame Joan Bakewell, Dignity in Care Ambassador said:
“Dignity Action Day highlights a more respectful way of behaving towards vulnerable people. The very old and the very young clearly need our respect, but it wouldn’t do any harm to spread the dignity message across the population then we can all benefit.”
Dignity Action Day was held on 1 February this year, a time when everyone is encouraged to celebrate the upholding of people’s rights to dignity and provide a truly memorable day for people receiving care. Dignity Action Day aims to ensure people who use care services are treated as individuals and are given choice, control and a sense of purpose in their daily lives.
We chatted to Kim, an older Leeds Resident who receives care and support to be able to live more independently in the South of Leeds who talks about what Dignity in Care means to her.
What do you enjoy about living here?
I have always been really independent. I was driving by the age of 13, had my first car at 23 and used to drive all around the country as a delivery driver. Driving is what I miss most.
However I came to the realisation that I had to stop driving as I could not see well enough. I still get about though. Sometimes it is just enough to get to walk outside all around the building.
When I go out, I love buying clothes, usually I go to the local shopping centre, sometimes into Leeds. I go with an open mind as to whether I will buy anything though there are some shops where I simply love the things they sell.
I can go out now for tea, although the meals are great here, with the cook checking what people like and they vary the food to offer choices.
I also like the fact that I am able to bring things with me, such as furniture and items from my old house. I have some precious mementos too, a special pair of shoes and ornaments which hold such memories. It helps me feel that this is home.
Do you feel safe here?
Tend to get anxious if I cannot breathe, but that is part of my condition. I ring the bell and staff will come, sometimes to just calm me down, though sometimes to help me get off the floor if I have knelt down to pick something up.
I was in such a state before I came here because I lived on my own and had become extremely anxious when I had difficulty breathing. I would ring for an ambulance constantly. 43 times was the most, with me ringing my former husband 17 times in one night. I was petrified of being in a flat on my own and unable to breathe. I wouldn’t chat, even though I am a naturally chatty person, I had lost my confidence and accept I think was very difficult when I came here in 2013. I didn’t want to do anything.
My family became desperate to try to work out what I really wanted in the way of support. I eventually came here for some respite but didn’t want to stay and made it difficult for everyone. But once I was here, I began to get some confidence back. I was encouraged to walk more and was eventually encouraged to walk to the dining room encouraged by one of the staff. It was a triumph for me.
Once I had my own furniture I could get rid of so much from my previous flat. The staff helped me make some simple adjustments. I needed fewer outdoor clothes and more indoor ones.
How do the staff support you?
I have three care staff who regularly look after me, although it is different on a night when I might not know them as well. Having the same three carers is important – means you can develop a rapport with them as they are different ages with the youngest a really bubbly personality. It is different with each of them, so we can talk about different things, sometimes serious sometimes laughing, though they each stay really professional.
It helps that they know me, so that I can feel relaxed with the help they provide. It helps calm me down which is important part of my care.
What I like most is that the carers talk to you like you are an ordinary person, not as if you are someone who is daft or has something wrong with them. It is what I want and what I do. I have seen the memory of one of my friends worsen and each day she now asks the same question. But you mustn’t change how you treat people.
Do you feel in control of your life?
Staff must recognise you have a choice as to whether you do something. On the other side of the building, there are lots of activities going on, but it is up to me whether I join in. I do crosswords every day, usually from the paper. I didn’t used to like them because I didn’t know how to go about them, but I find I am quite good at them now. My former husband and I ring each other up if stuck. He delivers paper every morning and will get anything else I need, or move anything around the apartment if needed.
I can go out now for tea, meals are great here, with the cook checking what people like and they vary the food to offer alternatives.
However I love to cook, especially on a weekend, things to just pop in the oven, sometimes to cook. So my husband will check that there is sufficient food in the fridge. I think there is sometimes enough to feed the whole building. I cook meals, especially sweet and sour, as I’m not really a curry person. I cooked for my family for years. I can remember I used to make 6 dozen sausage rolls, kids would have them to take to school, my husband would take some to work. I had always worked and always baked – especially enjoyed making pastries. I love the fact that my flat has a mini kitchen so that I can carry on doing what I have always done. It makes me feel independent.
Of course sometimes it does not go to plan. I did kippers a couple of weeks ago. All my neighbours complained for days, laughing they thought that I had done it on purpose. Especially as my door is always open.
When staff help you, how do they make you feel?
I get a cleaner every day, but often I only let her do the washing and clean the bathroom as I like to do my own sorting and bed linen and I like vacuuming. Sometimes I forget my limits and end up sitting on the floor unable to get up. That is where sometimes the care staff find me and help me get to my feet. The staff pop in when they are going past, just as my neighbours do. The staff also come in every morning to do my eye drops because I can’t do eye drops. The door is open as it is now. I have a call bell and there are others about. The staff are there when I need them.
What does dignity mean to you?
You feel there is real respect. The staff are so polite, they always knock, never just walk in. When they are with you there is relaxed banter. It makes you comfortable. The one thing I would say is that I would not want to be anywhere else.
Thanks Kim for telling us what dignity means to you.
The Dignity in Care campaign is led by the National Dignity Council, and the core values are about having dignity in our hearts minds and actions, changing the culture of care services and placing a greater emphasis on improving the quality of care and the experience of citizens using services including NHS hospitals, community services, care homes and home support services.
The campaign has over 58,000 registered Dignity Champions – who are individuals or care organisations.
A Dignity Champion is someone who believes passionately that being treated with dignity is a basic human right, not an optional extra. They believe that care services must be compassionate, person centred, as well as efficient, and are willing to try to do something to achieve this. So far over 50,000 people have signed up to be Dignity Champions, all pledging to challenge poor care, to act as good role models and, through specific guidelines issued by the campaign, to educate and inform all those working around them.
They are part of a nationwide movement, working individually and collectively, to ensure people have a good experience of care when they need it. They include councillors, staff at all levels in NHS and social care, volunteers, service users, their carers and members of the public.
You can find out more information about the Dignity in Care campaign and Dignity Champions.