Realising dignity in care home practice: an action research project

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Gallagher, A. ; Curtis, Katherine ; Dunn, M. ; Baillie, L. (2017)

Background: More than 400,000 older people reside in over 18,000 care homes in England. A recent social care survey found up to 50% of older people in care homes felt their dignity was undermined. Upholding the dignity of older people in care homes has implications for residents’ experiences and the role of Registered Nurses. Aims and objectives: The study aimed to explore how best to translate the concept of dignity into care home practice, and how to support this translation process by enabling Registered Nurses to provide ethical leadership within the care home setting. Design: Action research with groups of staff (Registered Nurses and non-registered caregivers) and groups of residents and relatives in four care homes in the south of England to contribute to the development of the dignity toolkit. Methods: Action research groups were facilitated by 4 researchers (2 in each care home) to discuss dignity principles and experiences within care homes. These groups reviewed and developed a dignity toolkit over six cycles of activity (once a month for 6 months). The Registered Nurses were individually interviewed before and after the activity. Results: Hard copy and online versions of a dignity toolkit, with tailored versions for participating care homes, were developed. Registered Nurses and caregivers identified positive impact of making time for discussion about dignity-related issues. Registered Nurses identified ongoing opportunities for using their toolkit to support all staff. Conclusions: Nurses and caregivers expressed feelings of empowerment by the process of action research. The collaborative development of a dignity toolkit within each care home has the potential to enable ethical leadership by Registered Nurses that would support and sustain dignity in care homes. Implications for practice: Action research methods empower staff to maintain dignity for older people within the care home setting through the development of practically useful toolkits to support everyday care practice. Providing opportunities for caregivers to be involved in such initiatives may promote their dignity and sense of being valued. The potential of bottom-up collaborative approaches to promote dignity in care therefore requires further research.
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