Intimate & Personal Care

People with a disability should be able to participate in all aspects of community life and it may be necessary for support people to carry out intimate care procedures in a variety of settings. Individuals requiring intimate and personal care will vary in age, background and ethnicity and will have differing levels of need, ability and communication skills.  However, what they have in common is the right to be treated with sensitivity and respect and in such a way that their experience of intimate and personal care is a positive one.

What is Intimate Care?

Intimate care encompasses areas of personal care which most people usually carry out for themselves but some people are unable to do so because of an impairment or disability.  Disabled people might require help with eating and drinking or other aspects of personal care such as washing, dressing and toileting.  Some may also require help with changing colostomy bags, sanitary towels, managing catheters or other appliances and some may require the administration of rectal medication on occasions. (Training will be provided for this if required) 

Principles of Intimate Care

Intimate care can be a positive experience for both the support person and the person being cared for.  It is essential that care is given gently and sensitively and that every person is treated as an individual.  As far as possible the person should be allowed to exercise choice and should be encouraged to have a positive image of her/his own body.

These principles of intimate care can be put into practice by:

  • Allowing the person a choice in the sequence of care.
  • Ensuring privacy appropriate to the person’s age and situation.
  • Allowing the person to care of her/himself as far as possible.
  • Being aware of and responsive to the person reactions.
  • Encouraging the person to say if they find the carer unacceptable

Given the right approach, intimate care can provide opportunities to teach people about the value of their own bodies, to develop their personal safety skills and to enhance their self-esteem.  Wherever the person can learn to assist in carrying out aspect of their intimate care they should be encouraged to do so.

Good Practice in Intimate Care

Providing intimate and personal care places carers in a position of great trust and responsibility.  They are required to attend to the safety and comfort of the person and must ensure that he/she is treated with dignity and respect.  Activities related to intimate care should offer opportunities for the person’s personal development and choice.  Even the youngest children can be encouraged to become aware of and value their own bodies and extend their personal skills and communication.

The following positive approaches will assist in promoting good practice in intimate care:

  • Carers should get to know the person well beforehand in other contexts and be familiar with her/his moods and methods of communication.
  • Carers should speak to the person personally by name so that he/she is aware of being the focus of the activity.
  • Carers should have knowledge and understandings of any religious and cultural sensitivity related to aspects of intimate care in respect of an individual and take these fully into account.
  • Carers should enable the person to be prepared for and to anticipate events while demonstrating respect for his/her body, e.g. by giving a strong sensory clue such as using a sponge or pad to signal intention to wash or change.
  • Cares should ensure that the person’s privacy and modesty is respected and protected.
  • Carers should agree with the person and their family appropriate terminology for private parts of the body and functions.
  • Carers must always speak to people in a way that reflects their age.

Carers should note the person’s responses to intimate care if there are any changes in behaviour.