Looking good and feeling good have always gone hand in hand. Your appearance is a reflection of the way that you treat yourself, and the way that you treat yourself will always be a reflection of how you feel.
As a person ages, their diminishing physical capabilities can result in a lack of ability to dress and present themselves. For elderly people who reside in aged care facilities, this responsibility will fall to the facility employees who have been entrusted with their care.
Being at the point where you are unable to dress yourself would be hard enough, but having the person who has been entrusted to dress you on a daily basis continually display a lack of effort in your appearance, would be demoralising.
While a number of things do deteriorate as we age, the need to feel valued as a person is definitely not one of them. But due to the current pressures that a lot of facilities are facing, the significance of this issue is sometimes lost.
Elderly aged care residents are more susceptible to feelings of isolation and loneliness than any other group of Australians, which stems from the avoidance and lack of attention being given to them. This can result in feelings of low self-worth and can compound other mental health issues they may be dealing with.
Even though getting dressed might be the least important task in terms of a residents physical wellbeing, it actually has a significant impact on their overall happiness and the way that they feel about themselves.
And that’s why it is important that new employees heading into the aged care sector understand the value of investing some extra time into dressing and preparing a resident for their day.
Because having a sense of pride in the way that you present a resident, allows them to maintain a sense of pride in themselves.
The Human Element of Care
Aged Care Coordinator, Dee Condy, has spent over 40 years working in the aged care sector and now finds herself preparing new prospective staff for the aged care industry at the Institute of Tertiary & Higher Education Australia (ITHEA.)
And she believes that ensuring that our elderly get the best care available comes down to ensuring that new staff empathises and understands the human element of care, just as much as much as the procedure.
“If you can imagine how demoralising it would be to be poorly dressed every day against your wishes, you can comprehend how important it is to present a resident in a way that they are happy with. Nobody that I know likes to leave the house looking their worst, and that feeling doesn’t go away as you age.”
“If you’re starting out in aged care, it’s important that you truly understand the fact that caring for someone is not ticking a bunch of boxes for the tasks that you need to complete. You need to understand that it’s the little things, and the attention to detail that makes the difference in a person’s day,” said Dee.
The importance of the role that an aged care employee plays is almost without equal in the employment sector. While there is an element of trust for every job, there are very few jobs that carry the weight of expectation and level of trust given to someone who is caring for a vulnerable elderly person.
The residents rely on the employees to provide them with the most enriching experience possible in the remaining years of their life.
This a level of responsibility that can not be adequately described by being simply being referred to as a ‘job.’
For residents with mobility issues, being dressed by a staff member can actually be one of the few human interactions they have on a daily basis.
Which makes the need for these interactions to be a positive experience even more vital.
A Personal Story
Mrs. Condy has spent decades working in aged care facilities and looking after high care residents and recently told a story that speaks volumes about the types of values that she enforces when training students at ITHEA.
“I spent Melbourne Cup Day at an aged care facility where I was overlooking some of our students who are currently in work placement. And I took the liberty of dressing and presenting a resident myself in order to lighten the load.”
“The resident that I dressed was an older woman who was generally known as a non-communicator within the facility. But I did my best to match her clothes and shoes, and do her hair in a way that would suit the theme of Melbourne Cup Day.”
“I got out a lipstick that matched her outfit and completed the look, and as she stood there admiring herself in the mirror I saw something that virtually nobody had seen from this resident in a very long time. I saw a smile. And that’s what aged care should be about,” she said.
The way an employee presents a resident is a reflection on the level of emotional investment that they have in their job. And while it’s understood that extra time is not a luxury that is often afforded to aged care employees it’s important to remind them of just how important presentation can be to a resident’s well being.
“It can be as simple as listening to a resident. And for those that aren’t capable of communicating their thoughts, you can try different things and look for signs of a positive response. The main thing is to understand that it means something, and work towards doing the best you can to meet the resident’s expectations.”
For information regarding aged care training visit www.ithea.vic.edu.au