January 16th, 2019 | BY: Allegra Chaney

Providing Personal Care with Dignity

Dear Allegra,

As a new caregiver for a home care agency, I’m constantly working to improve my skills. One area I am focusing on is providing personal care with dignity. Protecting patient dignity and privacy is vital.

I try to treat every patient like I would want to be treated, but I’m sure I can do more. I want to make sure every one of my patients feels comfortable with me as their caregiver.

Do you have any suggestions for maintaining patient dignity? Most of my patients have Alzheimer’s disease and have difficulty with verbal communication.

Any advice would be truly appreciated.



4Ways to Protect Dignity While Caregiving

Dear Liz,

You have the most important skill mastered already: treating patients like you would want to be treated. An empathetic approach to caregiving is vital when you consider what personal care entails.

Tasks like bathing, grooming, brushing teeth, and dressing require trust between a patient and their caregiver.

I have a few other suggestions that will help provide dignity in elderly care services:

  1. Use kind words: When an older adult has limited verbal skills, like your Alzheimer’s clients, it can be easy to underestimate how much your words still matter to them. While the senior may not be able to respond with words, you should still use positive phrases when providing personal care. The kindness and empathy in your voice can help them feel safe and secure during personal care.
  2. Learn about their disease: Different forms of dementia can cause different symptoms. It’s important to learn what they might be. A patient with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, might develop a fear of water. It might take more time and patience to help them bathe. Holding their hand and talking softly might aid in overcoming their fear.
  3. Minimize potential embarrassment: When patients need help bathing and dressing, it’s important to take steps to minimize embarrassment. Even if they can’t express it, the senior might feel embarrassed during personal care. Keep them covered as much as possible. Close doors and blinds in the room to protect modesty. Have their bathrobe ready as soon as they step out of the tub or shower. It also helps to keep the conversation going during personal care tasks to help distract them from any potential embarrassment.
  4. Avoid demeaning terms: While well-intentioned, a trap newer caregivers sometimes fall into is calling patients by terms that are too familiar. Terms like “honey” or “sweetie” can be demeaning. Using respectful terms with older adults helps protect their dignity.

Thank you for asking this question, Liz. Best of luck to you in your caregiver career.