Understanding Dignity

Understanding Dignity

The first activity invites you to gain the views of your colleagues regarding dignity in care.

Activity 1

To help your colleagues think about dignity, we invite you to bring small groups together – perhaps at handover time - and ask them the following questions:

  • What does ‘dignity’ mean to you?
  • How does ‘dignity’ apply when you are providing care?
  • What, do you think, increases dignity in care?
  • What, do you think, challenges dignity in care?
  • Give examples of how you promote the dignity of the people you care for and work with

Discuss the responses with your colleagues and point out how similar or different the responses are. You might then like to read out the definitions of dignity below (Appendix 1/Appendix 2) and see how these compare with the comments of your colleagues.

Responses in care homes during the Action Research Groups & Relatives & Residents Group included the following responses to ‘what dignity means…’

Staff responses Resident/relatives responses


Seeing each other as an individual

Taking the person as a whole

Being discreet

Treating as I would like to be treated

Getting into their shoes

A complex process as all of us are so different

Not taking away residents’ abilities

Not taking away their independence

Setting people up for success

Acknowledging as a person

Not letting dementia stop you from being who you are

Not using patronising language

Use the residents preferred name or title

Passing on information to colleagues when care changes

Using your body language to show you care; use of touch and smiling

Respect for the individual

Giving time

Getting to know the individual

Maintaining privacy

Showing human warmth

Consider as family

Having fun and a joke

Being people of pride

Being listened to

Having confidence

Being aware of responses – asking ‘What can I do for you?’ rather than ‘What do you want?’

Involving relatives if resident is grumpy

Recognising residents and their families as individuals

Being kind and caring all the time

Have a sense of humour

Learning what ‘works’ for a person and what doesn’t

Before you continue with the activities in this Toolkit, please take some time to think about and note down your answer, as a registered nurse, to the following questions:

  • How would you like the dignity aspects of practice in your care home to change as a result of taking part in this project?
  • How do aspects of your life impact on your ability to deliver dignifying care?
  • How do you demonstrate ethical leadership in your care home?
  • Where do you think you have most influence on dignity in care?
  • Where do you think you have least influence on dignity in care?
  • Think about ways in which you might extend your influence in other areas

Make a note of your answer and keep it in a safe place so we can revisit your responses later.

Summary points

  • Dignity relates to the worth and value of human beings;
  • Dignity relates to the way people feel, think and behave in relation to themselves and others;
  • Dignity can be promoted or diminished by an individual’s attitude and behaviour, by the care environment and by external views about ageing, care and illness; and
  • There are many opportunities for you, as a registered nurse, to provide leadership on dignity to individuals, your team and the wider organisation.

Appendix 1

Royal College of Nursing Definition of Dignity

Here is a definition of dignity that comes from a report by the Royal College of Nursing:

‘Dignity is concerned with how people feel, think and behave in relation to the worth or value of themselves and others. To treat someone with dignity is to treat them as being of worth, in a way that is respectful of them as valued individuals. In care situations, dignity may be promoted or diminished by: the physical environment; organisational culture; by the attitudes and behaviour of the [care] team and others and by the way care activities are carried out.

When dignity is present, people feel in control, valued, confident, comfortable and able to make decisions for themselves. When dignity is absent people feel devalued, lacking control and comfort. They may lack confidence and be unable to make decisions for themselves. They may feel humiliated, embarrassed or ashamed.

Dignity applies equally to those who have capacity and to those who lack it. Everyone has equal worth as human beings and must be treated as if they are able to feel, think and behave in relation to their own worth and value. The [care] team should, therefore, treat all people in all settings and of any health status with dignity, and dignified care should continue after death.’

Appendix 2

Skills for Care’ suggest the following definition and 7 principles of dignity:

‘Dignity focuses on the significance and value of every person as a unique individual. We show our commitment to upholding other people’s dignity by the ways in which we treat them; fairly, truthfully and with care and compassion. We respect other’s views, choices and decisions and so not make assumptions about what they want, like or how they want to be treated.’

Principle 1: Value the uniqueness of every individual

Principle 2: Uphold the responsibility to shape care and support services around each individual

Principle 3: Value communicating with individuals in ways that are meaningful to them

Principle 4: Recognise and respect how an individual’s dignity may be affected when supported with their personal care

Principle 5: Recognise that an individual’s surroundings and environments are important to their sense of dignity

Principle 6: Value workplace cultures that actively promote the dignity of everybody

Principle 7: Recognise the need to challenge care that may reduce the dignity of the individual’

See http://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Skills/Dignity/Dignity.aspx

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