Maintaining Individuality

When an older person “moves in” to a residential aged care facility, the facility becomes not only the place where they are cared for, but also their home. After living all of their adult lives as independent individuals, they sometimes have concerns that they will lose their independence, individuality and sense of self. They may worry that they will no longer be allowed to make decisions for themselves, take calculated risks, and make choices about their lives and healthcare. Frail older people in the community may also experience social and emotional isolation, as younger family members are busy raising their own families and have relatively little time to spend with them. Reliant on health professionals and others for their daily cares, it is understandably difficult to retain a sense of individuality, unless it is actively encouraged by others.

Elderly woman holding a cup of tea and smiling

Nurses can work with frail older people in a way that promotes a sense of individuality by respecting the different needs, interests, preferences, personalities and lifestyles of their older clients. In these settings, the nurse is a visitor and the facility or community setting is the client's home. As such, the nurse must take into account the client's right to make choices and decisions. For example, older clients in residential care settings should be able to go to bed when they choose, have choices about their meals, and decide who they want to involve in healthcare decisions.

Show transcript

When I was born in Maryborough, I went as a baby to Sandy Cape Lighthouse where my father was superintendent and there were three other families there so I lived there for the first seven years of my life and we had horses and goats and cows and goats and fowls and because the government steamer brought our supplies only once a month.

I’m living at present in Bickfield Village where I’ve been for over 21 years. I knew how to play Mah-Jong and I had been playing and so I taught five people here to play Mah-Jong and we should have played sometimes nearly all day.

What I think nurses should know is that people don’t need to have loud speech but articulate well and also speak more slowly which is easier to understand than rapid speech. I think nurses should understand they should be considerate and I really think that nurses are of different types. Some have it in them more than others do. Some people are good painters perhaps, some people are good at other things and they might be good engineers but some people haven’t got the capacity. It’s their general attitude, they’re not hurried, they’ve got plenty of time. They can’t say I’m too busy to do that I’ll do it later.

Thinking challenge

In the video, Claire talks about the things that have given her pleasure while in the residential care facility where she has been living for the past 21 years. These pleasures seem to have revolved around her friends there, teaching others new skills, and engaging in group activities.

  • In light of what Claire has mentioned about teaching other residents how to play Mah-Jong, how important might it be to find out about older clients' strengths, abilities and talents?
  • Claire has clearly led a very interesting life. How might asking her about aspects of her past, enhance her current function and sense of individuality?
  • Claire talks about certain kinds of people being suited to being aged care nurses. What are your thoughts about what makes a good aged care nurse?