Dignity and Privacy Make our Day

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Further to our previous blogs on Dignity (see links below), we also add that human dignity is a basic human right. It’s the freedom to be able to feel in control, safe, confident and autonomous. Dignity is just as much a basic human need as water, food and oxygen.  And in treating someone with respect and dignity, we defend a person’s identity and the freedom to flourish as a unique individual.

There’s an unrelenting vigilance at MACS to uphold the dignity of all and drive positive, non-discriminatory and professional interactions. For one thing, MACS has a robust human rights policy, painstakingly developed years ago with the Human Rights Commission. The message in that policy is plain and simple: MACS is about humane treatment of others in the organisation.

Then there’s our proactive Elder Abuse Committee. It meets regularly to prevent elder abuse and neglect happening in MACS’ residential care, Bella Chara and Home Services. Preventing elder abuse throughout MACS is key to thwarting loss of dignity and violation of human rights.  The committee is made up of the board chair, a board member from the legal profession, CEO, Director of Care, Clinical Care Manager, and leadership representatives from Home Services, Bella Chara, Work Health and Safety and Education. It reviews legislation, improvements to processes and current practice at MACS.

Having respect for the cultural and personal backgrounds of others is one of the many marks that makes MACS distinctive. It’s part of providing a safe, cultural space for all at MACS, where a person’s identity is not challenged or diminished in any way.  Currently, MACS interacts with 61 different nationalities across the organisation with a high percentage of staff and volunteers who are fluent in different languages. MACS looks to keep employing multilingual staff. But this practice is not new; it’s been happening ever since MACS opened decades ago.

Retaining such great numbers of multicultural staff and volunteers means that friendly, and skilled connection happens with residents and Home Care Consumers. Not only that, there’s a big message conveyed by this— residents and Home Care Consumers count—someone is interested in them, who they are, wanting to know what makes residents and consumers tick. Being able to be present to pay attention to individual physical, cultural, spiritual, psychological, social needs and preferences is key.

Yet some staff members still take this cultural competency to another level. They learn other languages far removed from their own. For example, a staff member from Africa learns Asian languages; another Asian staff member learns Yugoslavian. Other staff may even take up learning a string of unfamiliar language phrases. This is simply because they are passionate about having reassuring and warm interactions with residents.

Some great observations of dignity, making the day for others, can be seen in Gerda’s House—MACS’ modern, dementia-specific pod of 14 beds. It’s for residents living with dementia who need more secure accommodation and sensitivity to their special needs. It’s an environment where autonomy, independence and participation in everyday life are fostered with staff.  It’s heart-warming to see how they gently encourage residents to participate in activities that they love and enjoy, such as making pouches for orphaned baby possums. Engaging them in those activities supports residents having greater control and connection to those around them.

In addition to dementia training from peak bodies, Gerda’s house staff are also trained to work with a Montessori approach to aged care—connecting, motivating, and appreciating. Montessori in aged care has been adapted from the education sector to help older people with memory loss retain their independence. Best of all, it enhances person-centred care.

And the living environment in Gerda’s House speaks volumes when it comes to validation of resident selfhood and identity. Residents have an unfettered freedom to move about in the wide, airy passageways, spaces and lush garden, with routines determined by them. It’s as if they are moving in tandem with some unseen flow that transports them to a place of comfort and wellbeing.

Respecting privacy is the handmaiden of respecting dignity too. Yet, both dignity and privacy can happen in small, effective ways. Simple instances in Gerda’s House are the name notices on residents’ room doors. A myriad of colours and designs, the large signs are all strikingly different to each other and pay homage to the individual who resides within.

And throughout the whole of MACS, all staff always knock on resident’s doors before entering. This shows a clear awareness of entering a resident’s personal space: a mindfulness practice that is pivotal to privacy.

Privacy though, is protected on a far greater scale at MACS. This includes the protection of sensitive and personal data of staff, residents and consumers.  Data protection and upholding privacy, then, is everyone’s business at MACS. It’s become a fundamental part of staff induction and ongoing training.

Of course, benefits can happen for all of us when we show respect for the dignity of others. We can bet on making our day as well as making theirs. The responses we might get back from others could well be friendlier, happier and in some cases more gracious.

And in the grand scheme of things, who wouldn’t want that for themselves and for their loved ones?

Useful links

MACS’ blog:  How not to lose it all – Preserving Dignity in a Care Partnership

MACS’ blog:  How Dignity Preserves the Heart

Meaningful Ageing Australia  (MACS is a member)

Maintaining the dignity and autonomy of older people in the healthcare setting

Social Care Institute for Excellence

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