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Social Care Column: Providing Personal Care

In his latest Social Care Column, Mark Topps discusses the importance of delivering outstanding personal care to your service users.

White and black sheep grazing in a field, with green hilltops in the background, bathed in light from the setting sun.
Mark Topps
Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager
Published on:
8/7/2021
· Last Edited On:
9/6/2022
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8-minute read

I always welcome ideas and feedback on what to write about and this week’s topic of personal care came about from a request I received last month. To start us off, I want you to take a couple of seconds to think about the following question… When you think of personal care in our sector, what first springs to mind?

I asked a number of people I know what they thought personal care was, and the top answers were:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Washing and showering

alongside the age-old stigma of personal care being about wiping bottoms which frustrates me.

I would love for the sector and public image to move away from these thoughts of personal care and onto some of the other small details that are often missed or deemed by local authorities/funders as non-essential. These small details actually have such a big impact on how someone feels, looks and can make a real difference to their overall health and wellbeing.

Hair care

How many of us would roll out of bed and go to work or out for the day without doing our hair? Not many of us, and yet so many times I see families complaining and posting about how their loved one’s hair looks scruffy, unkempt and unbrushed.

Have you ever had someone brush your hair? Remember how that feels, how relaxing and stimulating it can be? This is the same for the people we support. The health benefits of a healthier scalp and natural oils in the hair will also be beneficial.

Aside from brushing or combing hair, we also need to take time and think about how the person we are supporting likes their hair to be, how they would have done their hair prior to requiring support and also how we can support people, especially younger adults to learn new skills to manage their hair care routine and/or hairstyles.

Nail care

The maintenance of both fingernails and toenails is vital to someone’s overall health. Good nail care can prevent fungal infections, ingrown nails and infections of the skin in the hands and feet.

Nail care is important to reduce the risk of overall infections in the hand, feet or skin and especially important for those living with diabetes or with poor circulation.

Aside from the health benefits, there is a real wellbeing factor of how people feel when they can see their healthy-looking nails, nails that have been painted and tended to. As we age, our nails become more brittle and can split and chip and it is important to think about whether the person we are supporting would like some nail hardener or moisturiser applied to their finger and cuticles.

Overall foot and hand care can increase blood circulation, be a way of relaxation and the number of products with scents and aromas that can be used to give a sense of reminiscence or comfort.

Skin care

As we age, the impact and risk to our skin also increase.

Veins and bones become more visible and scratches, bumps, infections can take longer to heal. Good skincare links to the importance of good hydration. Some people living within care services experience dehydration which can lead to their skin feeling rough, scaly and/or itchy which in turn can leave them feeling uncomfortable.

One of the biggest benefits of a good skincare routine is that it allows for people to have their skin checked daily and for care staff to spot any changes that may have occurred that could be a sign of cancer. Aside from the usual cream and lotions that people are prescribed or like to use, there is one thing that is often missed out of our personal care routine, which is makeup.

I have spent many hours supporting younger and older people to do their makeup and the boost that this gives to them is enormous. One lady I supported for a number of years would always look in the mirror and tell me I had made her look alive again.

I am no expert in applying makeup, but the impact and confidence that a bit of lipstick or blusher can bring to someone are incredibly powerful and the boost to self-worth that can start from others commenting on how they look.

More meaningful connections

There are many other factors when it comes to personal care that we can consider such as clothing, accessories for outfits, perfumes, and much more. I hope I have left you with a mindset of how personal care can be so much more than just washing or bathing someone.

I have observed over the years that some of these smaller details can really impact the way people we support feel, it gives care staff the chance to spend time with someone, spark conversations, a chance of getting to know someone, their life story and ultimately build the bond that will only enhance the quality of life for the person but also gives the care staff satisfaction and feeling of making a difference to someone’s day.

I want what I write to help, inspire and support people working in the sector, be the voice of those living within care services and help be the voice for family and friends in relation to what they see as shortcomings and areas to be improved on.

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