Nursing homes are an essential part of social life in the Western world and for good reason – they provide quality care for people who can’t take care of themselves and ensure a comfortable and dignified life for the elderly. At least in the best-case scenarios.
Unfortunately, there’s much that can and should still be improved in most nursing homes even in the most developed countries. Scandals about elderly abuse and subpar treatment of the residents are rampant in the news cycle and even when a facility offers quality care, there are still plenty of things that can be done better. (1)
Still, progress has been made. More and more facilities are offering things such as music therapy, pet therapy, memory care designs, and other innovations to improve the care and comfort of their residents. (2)
And recently, a new development has been seen in the Old Vicarage Care Home in the UK. (3) In their effort to help their dementia residents combat anxiety and depression, the staff at Old Vicarage Care Home implemented a “no uniform” policy throughout the facility. The idea followed a training with Dementia Care Matters and involves the staff wearing casual clothes throughout the day and nightgowns or pajamas for the night shift. (4)
How does it work?
This unique change of the Old Vicarage Care Home’s staff is based on the idea that visual cues help promote a better quality of life. The staff discovered that casual clothing and pajamas help their residents feel more welcomed and “at home” in their facility, as well as serve as subtle reminders that it’s bedtime.
This goes against the traditional view that uniforms improve the well-being of institutionalized residents. Instead, the absence of uniforms helped to alleviate the institutional atmosphere of the facilities which most residents don’t seem to enjoy. The casual clothing helped the residents feel less separation from the staff and improved the overall look and feel of the facility.
Additionally, a major problem most residents of nursing homes have is missing their family members and friends and feeling cut off from society. And while casually dressed staff members can’t replace the residents’ loved ones, they can certainly help them feel like a more involved part of society in contrast to what uniforms make them feel – separation, detachment, and a sense of being left out.