Preserving Dignity in Older Adults:
Responsibilities and Challenges in Nursing Care
Canada’s first Code of Ethics was written by Sister Simone Roach. Her legacy “is that she established the foundation of a value-based [italics added] code that specified what nursing ought to be [italics added]” (Storch, 2007, p. 32). The code includes values and ethical responsibilities that provide the foundation for safe, compassionate, competent and ethical care (Canadian Nurses Association [CNA], 2008). Using the existing literature to define the value of preserving dignity and to describe the underlying ethical responsibilities, the application of this value and its ethical responsibilities in nursing practice as it relates to older adults in an acute care setting will be explored. Also included in this paper is an examination of some of the challenges nurses face in upholding this particular value as well as a discussion of what we may encounter in the future. The value of preserving dignity is an important aspect of nursing care and offers many challenges when dealing with privacy, pain management and end of life care.
Preserving Dignity: Definition and Description
Even though dignity and its maintenance are viewed as important in the context of nursing care, dignity is seldom defined and the concept is difficult to describe (Fenton & Mitchell, 2002; Jacelon, Connelly, Brown, Proulx & Vo, 2004; Matiti, Cotrel-Gibbons & Teasdale, 2002; Newson, 2008; Walsh, 2002). The value of dignity and its preservation are very important when it comes to the delivery of nursing care (Mairis, 1994). “Without dignity it is hard to see how what is delivered can be called ‘care’ ” (Newson, 2008, p. 608). The nursing literature refers to the concept of dignity and its definition in turn as either very important (Mairis), as highly abstract (Fenton & Mitchell, 2002), as ambiguous and complex (Anderberg, Lepp, Berglund, & Segesten, 2007) or as elusive (Newson, 2008). Merriam-Webster’s...