Supporting Self Care

What, you might ask, is self care? The official definition, from NHS Choices is: “Knowing how to keep fit and healthy, how to deal with medicines appropriately, manage self-treatable conditions and when to seek appropriate clinical help.”


In essence then, self care is about maximising what all of us can do to achieve the very best levels of health and well-being. How we support the more vulnerable members of our community to achieve self care is extremely important, yet often overlooked.


We’ve encountered situations in the past where a person has been referred to us having been considered ‘unable’ to participate in caring for themselves, and ‘written off’ as being a totally dependent individual. Sometimes this may be linked to the person living alone, or having a cognitive impairment.


Yet self care is a vital cornerstone in empowering individuals, and giving them choice and control, two critical aspects in health and well-being. Whilst every situation needs to be risk assessed, there are many examples where helping a person to understand their condition, and how to live as well as possible with it, has life-changing results.


As professionals it can be easy to ‘step in’ and do everything ‘for’ a person rather than ‘with’ that individual, but as preventative healthcare comes more to the fore, it’s time we all realised that the person we are providing care and support for is the real expert in their health and well-being, and that we are partners working alongside them.


As partners we can assist in managing aspects of a person’s health that they might be unable to manage themselves. We are often in a good position to spot health problems before they escalate, and can be invaluable sources of information and advice. But in all of this, the way in which we put the person’s ability to self care front and centre in our thoughts and actions is crucial.


What can this person do? What do they want to do? How can I support this person to self care? These are the questions we need to be asking. The answers will vary as greatly as the clients we support, but even the smallest achievement in self care is to be celebrated and learnt from.


You can find more information about self care from the Self Care Forum.