Dignity and palliative care in dementia

J Nutr Health Aging. 2007 Nov-Dec;11(6):489-94.


Care for patients with dementia poses multiple challenges to the caretaker, including issues concerning maintaining patient dignity. In this paper, we discuss dignity in the context of patient autonomy, self-respect and appreciation, and explore issues that relate to dignity of patients in dementia care. As patients become incapacitated by the disease, it becomes the caretaker's responsibility to assure that the patient continues to live with dignity. The uniform manifestation of dementia symptoms across individuals allows for implementation of patient-friendly activities to address their special needs and allow them to express the remaining autonomy. In advanced dementia, a beneficial long-term care outcome becomes secondary and should give way to strategies to maintain patient comfort and dignity. Although it may be challenging to stress dignity in a patient with advanced dementia, where multiple serious health problems are likely to co-exist, it remains important to realize that dignity can be, should be and must be supported, maintained and, in some situations, regained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Dementia / therapy
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Quality of Life*