Oct 03, 2017

Why Appearance Matters, Even When You are Living in a Nursing Home

“I say, dress to please yourself. Listen to your inner muse and take a chance. Wear something that says ‘Here I am!’ today.” – Iris Apfel, 96.

Just because a person is getting older, it doesn’t mean they have to let go of their desire to look good.

We teach children not to judge a book by it’s cover – but that’s not to say we, or that others, shouldn’t pride ourselves in having a presentable “cover”.

Appearance matters – not for society or how others see you, but for ourselves. How we look and how we dress has a large influence in how we feel about ourselves and our confidence.

A person’s appearance can influence three significant areas – dignity, identity and individuality.

So when an older person moves into aged care, they shouldn’t have to let go of that part of themselves.

It’s not something that’s talked about a lot – appearance in aged care –  but it is important to delve into what that really means to a person.


Dignity is somewhat a challenge in aged care. People who were used to doing things for themselves at suddenly in a setting where simple tasks need assistance.

And there lies where many residents feel that they lose their dignity.

Dignity should not be mistaken for pride – it’s not their pride that stops older people from wanting to be spoon fed, or needing wear “bibs” and “adult diapers”.

Dignity can come from the simplest of things – choice.

Choice in what they wear, how they wear it, and the comfort and joy it gives them.

If an elderly person wants to dress up despite the fact they have nowhere to go or no one to visit them – let them. It’s their choice and if they want to look a certain way then you should help and support them, not stop them.


What we wear play a big part in how we see ourselves – and in turn how others treat us. Are you a bubbly person who likes to wear floral patterns? Or more of a chic personality who wears a lot of black?

You have your tastes and so do the elderly in aged care.

When a person moves into aged care, they already have to let go of so much of their identity. They leave their family home, along with many belongings that they’ve cherished for years.

In a nursing home setting, these residents want to hold on to a part of who they are – their old identity. Something as simple as a night dress they cherish or the way they style their hair can make them feel more like himself.

It is important for self-esteem and self-knowledge – which in turn, helps with mental health and overall mood.


Imagine if they made everyone in aged care wear the same thing all the time. It would be like being in school again with the uniforms.

Or worse – like being in hospital.

However, in a hospital, they “uniform” is only temporary and it is not expected that a person would be there long term.

But in aged care, that’s meant to be a resident’s home. A place where they can be as similar or as different as they choose to be.

Whilst some people with dementia lose all interest in clothing, others still like having the choice.

As a person loses some of their functions and their world becomes smaller, the things closest to them become more important and so their clothes need to feel and look good to them.

In the end, how a resident looks isn’t what’s important. It’s how their appearance makes them feel.

Aged care residents deserve to maintain their dignity, identity and individuality.

What do you have to say? Comment, share and like below.

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  1. This is a wonderful reminder of the importance of maintaining one’s dignity, especially in the face of dementia or other chronic illness. I enjoyed the photo of this sweet lady!

  2. the nursing home that my Mum now lives in will not allow adult bibs, they say it’s not dignified. My Mum always had high standards of personal cleanliness, now she has food splattered over her clothing all day, from breakfast onwards. all the staff and visitors get to see my Mum with dirty clothes and I now don’t want to take her out and let her be seen by the general public….

    1. I work in Aged Care as a carer. It saddens me that your mum is left in dirty clothes all day. We use cotton Serviettes and put them over the front of our residents. However if a residents gets dirty from spilling food or drink on them, we change them into clean clothes. I would suggest you write a letter of complaint to the Management letting them know that this is not acceptable, and you want her changed after meals. You can also put in a complaint with the Aged Care Compliant Scheme.

    2. Under the new aged care standards there is NO SUCH THING as NOT ALLOWED!!!! If your mother would like to use a clothing protector at meals she is 100% entitled to do so. You may have to supply these & make sure they are labelled with her name, but staff cannot refuse to use this if your mother wants to use them. I have some patterns for adult sized clothing protectors that I downloaded for free & they are very easy to make, even for a beginner sewer like me. They are backed with terry toweling (I used old beach towels that had holes in them) & the front can be made from any pretty fabric you like. I just used some old dresses of mine that no longer fitted or I no longer liked. They close at the back of the neck with velcro so they can be put on & taken off by the wearer if they have some use of their arms & hands. Tell that facility to have a read of the new standards & let your mother use a clothing protector if she likes!!!!!

  3. This is SO fabulous. And exactly why I include my 80+ year old mother on my blog!!

  4. Our residents pick out what they want to wear from wardrobe- families are asked for more clothes as needed. NO-ONE says they have to have a certain hair style or all look the same- where do these ideas come from? In 40 years nursing I have never seen anyone made to dress how they don’t want! Makeup is encouraged; our ladies have nail polish if they want and THEY pick the colour!

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