Living Space, Personal Space and Privacy

Arranging for living space: Human beings are creatures who need their own space. Most of us growing up either had our own rooms or wished we did. That need does not go away as we age. Unfortunately, for residents, having their own space and privacy is difficult, and that is something aids can help with.

Nursing homes differ as to how much space residents can have. The luckier residents have their own rooms and are allowed to bring furniture from home, so that their rooms truly seem truly their own. If furniture can be brought from home, encourage residents and family members to bring things that will make the resident feel more comfortable and at home.

Other residents live in more crowded conditions in which they have to share one room with a roommate, but even in shared rooms residents can have their own space. A bed, bedside table, and small chest of drawers can be considered the resident’s own personal space. Residents and their families should be encouraged to bring pictures of family or pets to put on display to make the space the residents’ own.

Personal space: Another space that is important to each of us is the space which surrounds each of us, and which we consider ours. For most people this ends about eighteen inches from our bodies. Having others invade our personal space can cause anxiety and anger. Elderly people in poor health need to feel at peace. Anger and anxiety can be bad for their health. Of course, when caring for residents, you will often have to be closer than eighteen inches for bathing, helping with clothing changes, giving back rubs, measuring vital signs, feeding, toileting, and transporting. It is important to explain what you are going to do for residents before you perform a procedure, so that residents feel less anxious. Knowing why their space is being invaded will make them feel that they are being taken care of rather than violated.

Privacy: Privacy is important to everyone. We wear clothes to cover our nakedness and lock the doors when we enter a restroom. We speak in low voices when we are discussing something of a personal nature in public. For residents of nursing homes, having rooms with healthcare workers and visitors coming and going, and having procedures done by other people, privacy can be a problem.

Always draw the curtains around the patient’s bed when bathing the patient, changing his or her clothes, or giving a bedpan. When a nurse or doctor performs a procedure such as inserting a catheter or performing a medical examination, see that the curtain is closed. If your patient is wearing a hospital gown and wants to walk down the hall, give him or her a robe or another gown to wear in back.

Privacy also has to do with the patient’s information. Never discuss a patient while in an elevator or the cafeteria. Discussions should be confined to group conferences behind the nurses’ station. Patients should never be discussed with each other. Charts and medical records must be kept at the nurses’ station or the medication room. Never talk about patients outside the hospital or nursing home.

QNA’s

Q.  True or False:  It is acceptable to disclose personal information about your patient with other members of the staff at your place of employment?

A.  False:  It is not okay to discuss personal information about your patient with other staff members.  This is a violation of their privacy rights.

Explanation:  If you have overheard your patient talking about private details of their lives to a family member or friends, YOU CANNOT share this information with other employees at the healthcare facility.  You cannot gossip about patients to others.  You will know what information and to whom details pertaining to a person’s care can be disclosed.  No other information can be discussed.  For instance, you can give an overview about how your patient did during your shift to the nursing assistant who will be taking over for the next shift.

Q.  Is a resident able to maintain some of their own things and create their own living space in a long-term care facility?

A.  Yes, individuals are able to make their living space feel at home.  They have a right to maintain some of their own personal items in their rooms.  These items cannot be removed and a patient should always feel that their personal property is safe and will not be stolen.

Explanation:  Having items from home can help a resident to feel more at ease in a nursing care facility.  You should not touch a patient’s property without permission.  If you need to move an item when cleaning or performing a task, you should explain to the resident why you wish to move something and seek permission.  The residents should also be able to rest assured that no staff members or other residents will steal their belongings or take them without permission.

Q.  True or False:  There is no way to help a patient preserve their personal space since there are tasks I must perform as a nursing assistant, where I will need to be in that space?

False:  You must still work to help patients to feel as if their personal space is not unduly invaded.  When you need to be within a patient’s personal space, let them know before you get close.  Always ask a patient if they feel comfortable when you are in their space and do what you can to maintain their comfort.

Explanation:  It is true that you cannot always help but being within less than 18 inches of a person when you are their nursing assistant.  However, you should never just “barge” into their space.  Simply explaining to a patient why you need to be in their space and giving them a moment to prepare can go a long way in helping the patient to feel better.  If a patient asks you to back up for a few second, do so while they adjust to you needing to be in their space.

This is a collaborative project. As such, the content above is always being edited, improved and added to.

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