Elder care facilities nationwide, from nursing homes to assisted living residences, are designed to provide assistance for elderly clients who need partial to total personal care. Well-enforced guidelines are in place for the physical care and treatment of elders in such facilities, and many of these homes are dedicated to providing a place for their residents to live out their lives as independently as possible, with dignity and respect.
But despite their best intentions, many elder care workers may not be providing the level of respect they think they are. It is quite common for nursing facility staff to address residents as “sweetie” and “dear”, which, while they may be meant as terms of endearment, often are seen by the recipient as being demeaning or derogatory, relegating the resident to a childlike position. When this happens, it can have the opposite effect of what is intended. Instead of promoting strength and independence, this “endearment” may instill a sense of helplessness or vulnerability in the elders addressed in such a manner.
True respect can be demonstrated in so many ways, even in a care facility. By simply ensuring total privacy during personal care, or calling a resident by his or her name, elder care workers can increase the self-perception of their residents significantly. This, in turn, can encourage elders to participate actively in their own care. Treating the resident with the respect he or she deserves and encouraging independent activity can make a huge difference in the recovery time for individuals recuperating from injury or surgery. Basically, if you treat a person like a helpless child, you will receive the response of a helpless child.
Whether you work in an elder care industry, volunteer with elders, or simply take care of an aging loved one at home, fostering an atmosphere of true respect will go a long way toward improving the quality of life for all involved.