Dignity factors - Personal hygiene
Enabling people to maintain their usual standards of personal hygiene.
Care is a very intimate thing. The closer the person that's helping you to someone that you like and respect, or have interests in common with, the better.
Personal hygiene in practice
- Support people to maintain their personal hygiene and appearance, and their living environment, to the standards that they want.
- When providing support with personal care, take the individual’s lifestyle choices into consideration – respect their choice of dress and hairstyle, for example.
- Don’t make assumptions about appropriate standards of hygiene for individuals
- Take cultural factors into consideration during needs assessment.
What others are doing – Ideas you could use
These practice examples are self-reported and have not been evaluated.
Personal hygiene and dignity - key points from policy and research
- Having a clean and respectable appearance and pleasant environment is key to maintaining the self-esteem of older people.
- Cleanliness in hospitals is one of the top five issues for patients (DH, 2004d).
- Having a clean home is particularly important to older women in terms of maintaining their dignity and self-respect. (Godfrey et al., 2000).
- The proper care of laundry is a key issue for many care home residents (PG Professional and the English Community Care Association, 2006).
- 'Hygiene and cleanliness is seen as a key indicator of standards within a [care] home’ (PG Professional and the English Community Care Association, 2006).
- The NHS Essence of Care (384kb PDF file) benchmark for personal and oral hygiene focuses on assessment of need, planned care based on negotiation with patients, the care environment and appropriate levels of assistance (DH, 2003c).
- 'Towards cleaner hospitals and lower rates of infection' (PDF file) sets out a number of initiatives to improve hygiene standards in hospitals (DH, 2004d).
Personal hygiene and dignity - policy and research in more detailOpen
Hygiene and personal appearance were highlighted in the Department of Health (DH) online survey (DH, 2006d) as factors in maintaining dignity for older people. An analysis of UK data (Woolhead et al., 2004) from the Dignity in Older Europeans study (Cardiff University, 2001 - 2004) found that the self-respect of older people could be undermined by neglect of patients’ appearance and clothing and that, even in death, maintaining a respectable appearance is very important to people.
A person’s appearance is integral to their self-respect and older people need to receive appropriate levels of support to maintain the standards they are used to. Personal preferences should be respected, as well as choice in how support is provided. For example, choosing when and how to carry out personal care tasks, using your own toiletries, choosing what to wear and how to style your hair and having clean, ironed clothes that fit are all ways of maintaining control and identity. Particular care should be taken in residential settings to ensure that personal laundry is treated with respect and not mixed up or damaged.
Aspects of hygiene and personal appearance include:
- Washing, bathing, showering
- Oral hygiene and denture care
- Hair care
- Body and facial hair removal
- Nail care, including chiropody and podiatry
- Using the toilet and continence needs
- Dressing and undressing