Being sick, weak, or disabled evokes many different thoughts and emotions from patients. It's truly difficult to adjust from independence and physical fitness to feeling feeble and in constant need of assistance. The bodily changes can drain a person's energy and zest for life and challenge a patient's mental health because the things they can’t control keep adding up. And this feeling of helplessness can result in low self-esteem.
“Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves.”
This quote by self-esteem expert, Nathaniel Branden, tells us a person's view of themselves is the most essential. He goes on to say that self-esteem can summon the hero within—the person who always wants to do better.
Keeping Branden's insights in mind regarding patient care, it’s clear their good opinion of themselves can help patients achieve health goals. Although he talks about efforts someone does themselves, caregivers can help patients be successful.
Here are some ways you can do that:
Give the patient a sense of control. Ask them about their opinions, choices, and preferences. And, fostering a sense of control means not making decisions for a patient unless you have their permission to do so. You can start your questions with the following:
• "What do you think of…?"
• "Which do you prefer, …?"
• "Which do you like better, …?"
For example, ask a patient with Alzheimer's disease which set of weather-appropriate clothes (that you've selected) to wear for the day. Although they have confusion and are likely to choose inappropriate clothes on their own, offering sets for them to choose from enables them to be comfortable and safe while still making their own decisions.
Involve the patient in their own care. Patients sometimes insist on doing things on their own. Although allowing them to do so can be time-consuming and messy, you must accommodate their wishes as long as they are safe. It provides them a sense of independence that can improve their self-esteem.
You can also give patients tasks that strike a balance between challenging and easy. If the patient is weak, ask them to do a task and then take it up when they are unable to continue. For example, when helping a patient take a bath, give them the washcloth so they can clean the front of their body while you wash areas they can’t easily reach, such as their back.
Help the patient groom themselves. Yes, even in nursing homes, patients may opt to dress fashionably or elegantly. If they prefer to wear a jacket instead of a sweatshirt or formal shoes instead of slippers, let them. You can also assist in getting the hairstyle they want. Put yourself in their shoes: You know how the right outfit can make you feel more confident, so be extra accommodating when the patient wants to dress fashionably, too.
Have meaningful conversations with the patient. This is perhaps one of the most effective strategies for improving a patient's self-esteem because you establish deeper connections and don’t limit interactions to just care procedures. They are talking and interacting with someone instead of just allowing a robot-like figure on autopilot to change their bedsheets. Talk about the stories behind the photos they keep. You might be surprised at what you hear!
Give the patient activities where they feel good about themselves. For example, organize a simple dance party where they can show up in dressy clothes. You just need to be creative and think about what your patients’ idea of fun is.
It’s true that sickness and age can dampen the spirit, and so the body refuses to fight. What the mind wants, the body follows. When you help improve a patient's self-esteem, you help them get back their confidence and the desire to live a better life.
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