The meaning of dignified care: An exploration of health and social care professionals' perspectives working with older people
Background: Despite well established national and local policies championing the need to provide dignity in care for older people, there continues to be a wealth of empirical evidence documenting how we are failing to deliver this. While we have evidence as to what older people and their relatives understand by the term 'dignified care' we have less insight into the perspectives of staff regarding their understanding of this key policy objective. This paper aimed to explore the meaning of dignified care from the perspective of health and social care professionals' working with older people. In-depth interviews and focus groups with health and social care professionals were carried out across four NHS Trusts in England, as part of a larger study, to investigate how dignified care for older people is understood and delivered. A total of 48 health professionals took part in in-depth interviews and 33 health and social care professionals participated in one of eight focus groups. Results: Health and social care professionals defined the meaning of dignified care as: 'dignity is the backbone of care', 'it's the "little things"', 'feeling safe and secure', 'treat as you want to be treated', 'treat as an individual' and 'Dignity encompasses multiple factors'. 'Hands on' aspects of care were rarely mentioned when defining dignity. This suggests that policies around providing dignified care are being interpreted as an approach towards care and not with direct care provision. This limited interpretation of dignity may be one factor contributing to the continued neglect of older people in acute settings. Conclusions: These findings highlight that proactive measures are required to ensure that both relational and 'hands on' aspects of care are met for all older people receiving care in NHS trusts.