Surviving Caregiving

The D Factor: How Respect for Dignity Can Make Care Better

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Dignity is one of those things we don't think much about until it’s gone.

In the hospital, for instance: Ever hear the saying about hospitalizations, "Check your dignity at the door"? It refers to those gowns that barely cover your tush. The abrupt 3 a.m. wakeups to take vital signs. Strangers' group discussions of your most intimate bodily functions.

Being able to hang onto your sense of dignity directly affects quality of life, researchers say. And this is especially true in care settings of all types, including at home.

What is dignity, anyway?

Dignity is defined in different ways. Mainly, it refers to the state or quality of being worthy of honor and respect.

"Dignity is a basic human right," says Qiaohong Guo, a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, who opened a panel of experts discussing dignity at the Geronological Society of America's recent annual meeti

About Surviving Caregiving
  • How can you do your best by your loved one -- and yourself at the same time? That's the dilemma at the heart of looking after someone who's sick, frail, or has dementia. This blog collects the best thinking to help you solve that riddle, or, at least, get closer to it. I'm the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and a contributing editor. I helped care for my late parents.

    You can find me at or @PSpencerScott on Twitter.

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