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A life in care can often take its toll when it comes to a person’s independence. Everyday tasks which were once taken for granted now require the support of another person and this can often be quite a sensitive matter.
Personal care involves things such as dressing and undressing, helping with the toilet, bathing and grooming – so it’s easy to see why people may feel uncomfortable about asking for help.
Whilst personal care is mostly associated with the elderly and dementia patients, it’s also something that can come into play in settings which support children with additional needs, so it’s really important to have a good approach so as to not cause any embarrassment and to make them feel at ease. Here are some things to keep in mind in order to offer a personal service…
With a number of people to look after, it’s often easy to neglect the finer details – but in ‘remembering’ things such as how a lady likes her hair styled, a favourite outfit or even a preferred shade of nail polish, the whole affair becomes a lot more personal. Naturally it’s not always possible to actually remember all of these things, so by making a note and referring back to this prior to a visit, you can keep the relationship strong and ensure that the time you spend together is valued and truly appreciated.
It’s often easy to think that because your patient can’t do X then that also means that they can’t do Y or Z either. This is not the case. Try to allow as much independence as possible by simply being there to help if they need. For example, not everyone will need help bathing, but having someone sat outside the door ready to lend a hand if necessary can be really reassuring. Obviously some people will need more support than others, but it’s important to treat everyone individually in order to build trusting relationships.
In a setting where people’s memory may not be as strong as normal, such as in dementia care or learning disability care, establishing a routine can be really helpful. Doing the same things at the same time every day makes them much easier to remember, so personal care tasks, such as brushing teeth, bathing, and taking medication can be done more independently.
The more independence you can instil the better – it gives people a sense of purpose, which in turn is beneficial for mental health.
This really goes without saying, but particularly when caring for children, bear in mind that they will often have feelings about their bodies, and more often than not be uncomfortable with how they look. The thought of someone else seeing their body can make them feel very vulnerable, so keep this in mind at all times. What you may see as a flippant comment, like ‘oh, have you lost weight?’ may be over analysed and taken in the wrong way. Similarly, elderly people may also be feeling very vulnerable – their bodies will be rapidly changing too so it’s important to be aware of this and do all you can to put them at ease when it comes to personal care.
It’s also really important though that you feel comfortable. If you have reservations about helping someone bathe or go to the toilet, it’s likely to come across quite obviously, so take some time to get to grips with what you need to do before you need to do it.
Ultimately, we’ll all aware of these things, but sometimes we find ourselves becoming so busy and tired (see our post on Healthy Shift Working here) that we forget to take a breath between tasks and think about what we’re doing – it just becomes second nature. By taking a minute to reset yourself between jobs, you’ll be able to approach each task with the right mindset and attitude, allowing yourself to become more of a helpful friend than a carer.