Background: This study investigated which concepts regarding “the good life” are used in mission statements of nursing homes providing care for demented patients.
Method: All 317 Dutch nursing homes caring for demented patients were asked to participate; of these, 69% responded. Their mission statements were qualitatively analyzed on content. Whether different types of nursing home differed significantly in the content of their mission statements was investigated by means of χ2 analyses.
Results: Six main concepts were found that are considered important for a good life: 1) autonomy and freedom, 2) individuality and lifestyle, 3) relationships and social networks, 4) warmth and safety and familiarity, 5) developing capacities and giving meaning to life and 6) subjective experience and feelings of well-being. It was found that mission statements specifically developed for demented patients attach less importance to the concepts 1) autonomy and freedom and 2) individuality and lifestyle, than mission statements which are also aimed at non-demented residents. Most mission statements turned out to be highly eclectic in content.
Conclusion: Nursing homes with a separate statement for demented residents seem to acknowledge the special position of demented residents and the tension between dementia and the ideal of autonomy. Although the eclecticism found in mission statements is understandable, a coherent view on the good life for demented residents should aim for a sound internal structure, and make choices between values. Only then can mission statements provide real guidance for everyday care.