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Caregiving with dignity

05 Apr 2008
Bonnie Sandler, S.W., The Senior Times - April 2008

Language for children should not be used for adults, regardless of any cognitive deficiency. Adults with care needs should be treated with dignity at all times. This includes the use of proper language:

Diapers – this is a word used to describe a product designed for infants and children who are not yet toilet trained. I cringe when I hear this word used around older adults. When dealing with individuals with incontinence issues we should not use the word diapers. Protective underwear, added under garments are just some examples of terms that are dignified and respectful.
Babysitters – are sitters for babies. This term should not be used for adults who are unable to be alone. Using words like companions or caregivers is preferable.
Activities – toys are for children. Although there are toys for adults it would be best to refer to these by their specific names ex: puzzle and not toy.

Bathing is another area where we have to be sensitive to a person’s dignity. Many individuals who require assistance with bathing and or dressing are uncomfortable being naked in front of another person. There are ways to keep a person’s body covered while providing the needed care. If the individual is feeling uncomfortable they may become agitated and thus combative. Using specialized clothing that covers parts of the person yet allows for full bathing/showering will calm the person and preserve his dignity. Even properly placed towels can be used.

Celebrations – Birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions need not be ignored because your loved one is no longer able to remember these special dates. Families can continue to honor these times with cakes and goodies and specially chosen gifts for their loved one. Comfortable slippers, a warm shawl or wrap, costume jewelry, or an activity appropriate to that individual are just some ideas. A CD with old time familiar music, a DVD of old sitcoms such as ‘I Love Lucy’ or special musicals can be enjoyed by all.

These are just a couple of tips for preserving your loved one’s dignity and honouring them with celebrations of special dates. As a caregiver you will discover different ways you can adapt your caregiving to ensure the dignity of your loved one.


Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775