Aim: To gain insight in the way nursing home residents experience personal dignity and the factors that preserve or undermine it.
Background: Nursing home residents are exposed to diverse factors which may be associated with the loss of personal dignity. To help them maintain their dignity, it is important to investigate this concept from the residents' perspective.
Design: A qualitative descriptive study.
Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted between May 2010-June 2011 with 30 recently admitted residents of the general medical wards of four nursing homes in The Netherlands.
Results: Illness-related conditions were the starting point of a process which could affect personal dignity, by threatening aspects of one's individual self and social world. Living in a nursing home was not a reason in itself to feel less self-worth, but rather seen as a consequence of functional incapacity. Nevertheless, many residents felt discarded by society and not taken seriously, simply because of their age or illness. Waiting for help, being dictated to by nurses and not receiving enough attention could undermine personal dignity, whereas aspects of good professional care (e.g. being treated with respect), a supportive social network and adequate coping capacities could protect it.
Conclusions: Contrary to the general view in society that living in a nursing home always undermines one's dignity, good professional care and a supportive social network can preserve dignity as well. To support residents in their challenge of maintaining dignity, nursing home staff, relatives and society should pay more attention to the way they treat them.
Keywords: dignity; interviews; nursing home; older people.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.