Perception of Dignity in Older People and at The End of Life

Julie Vosit-Steller, Jenna Swinkin, Katie McCabe

  • Abstract

    The impact of illness, age, treatment and a terminal prognosis can erode a patient’s sense of dignity and reduce quality of life. Maintaining patient dignity has always been considered synonymous with nursing practice. However, there is minimal information relating to how best nurses can promote and maintain a patient’s sense of dignity among different patient populations and care settings. Dignity is a subjective concept that means different things to different people. If nurses are to provide dignity-preserving care, it is necessary to clarify patients’ individual perceptions of dignity. Nurses need to be more aware of the importance of dignity to patients and the practices and barriers that prevent patients maintaining a sense of dignity. This article highlights current research regarding the concept of dignity in nursing. It will examine how dignity is defined and promoted by nurses in general before exploring the concept of dignity with regard to care of older people, including people with dementia, and end-of-life care. Specific nursing interventions that promote patient dignity in clinical practice will be discussed throughout the article. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Contributors

    Julie Vosit-Steller, Jenna Swinkin, Katie McCabe


    Correct at article publish date

    Julie Vosit-Steller, Associate Professor of Practice, and Jenna Swinkin and Katie McCabe, graduate students, Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences, Boston, US. Email:

    Original publishing information

    • Publisher: St Christopher's Hospice
    • Publish date: 01/01/2013
    • Volume: 3
    • Issue: 2

    Permissions: © 2015, Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to

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