Quality of Life

After you take this class, you will be able to:

  1. Identify physical, emotional and spiritual things that can increase or decrease a personís quality of life.

  2. Discuss ways to increase patientsí and residentsí quality of life.

What is quality of life?

Some people like life. Life is good to them. They enjoy it. Others do not feel good about their life. They have little joy. Quality of life is how much a person likes or does not enjoy their life. This class will help you learn ways that you can make a person’s quality of life better.

People in good health have a better quality of life than those that are sick, ill or in pain. People with good physical, mental and spiritual health have a high quality of life. They are usually happy and satisfied.

People with poor physical health, those with mental or emotional problems and a lack of spiritual health usually have a low quality of life. People with a poor quality of life do not enjoy life. They may be very unhappy.

Quality of life depends on a person’s:

  • Physical health and well being
  • Mental health and well being
  • Spiritual health and well being

Physical Quality of Life

Some of the things that add to or take away from a person’s physical quality of life are:

  • Physical state of health
  • Nutritional state
  • Personal hygiene and grooming
  • The ability to do exercise and a regular exercise routine

Illness, poor nutrition, poor personal hygiene, grooming and the lack of exercise lower the quality of life for some people. Many old adults have chronic physical disorders, such as diabetes, a stroke and weakness. These things lower the quality of life for these residents and patients.

Good health, nutrition, hygiene and grooming and regular exercise add to the quality of life. Nursing assistants and others can do many things to increase a person’s physical quality of life.

Mental Quality of Life

Some of the things that add to or take away from a person’s mental quality of life are:

  • Mental status
  • Ability to think clearly and make decisions
  • Feelings about themselves. Does a person feel good about himself or herself? Do they like themselves? People want to feel good about themselves and what they are able to do.
  • Level self-control. Do your patients or residents have control over things that affect them?

When a person has a mental disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, when they can not think clearly, when they have poor self-esteem and the feeling that they have no control over themselves and the things around them, they will have a poor quality of life.

Good mental health, the ability to think clearly, good self-esteem and feelings of control over one’s life and one’s own decisions add to a good quality of life and happiness.

Quality of life is also good when a person is able to grow each and every day. It is good when they learn something new. It is good when they can do something well.

People of all ages want to be able to reach their goals and to be a part of a group. They want to be accepted, wanted and needed by others. They want to feel important and to have a place in this world.

Quality of life is better when a person is loved, accepted and feels that they belong in their:

  • Home
  • School
  • Place of work and/or
  • Place of living, that is, their house or nursing home.

The emotional quality of life is also better when a person is able to grow and reach their personal goals and hopes. Quality of life is good when a person is able to:

  • Take care of their home
  • Take care of themselves and do their activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, eating and using the bathroom
  • Work, do volunteer activities or go to school
  • Learn something new
  • Cope with change and stresses

Spiritual Quality of Life

There are also things that affect a person’s spiritual quality of life. Some of the things that add to or take away from spiritual quality of life are the person’s:

  • Spiritual beliefs
  • Personal standards and values

Strong spiritual beliefs and personal values add to the quality of life. A poor spiritual quality of life can happen when these things are not present. People that do not believe in a spiritual life may be less happy with life than those who do believe in a spiritual life.

How Can We Make Our Patientsí Quality of Life Better?

We can help our patients and raise their quality of life by helping them to have the best possible physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

We help them physically so that they have a good physical quality of life. We can assist them to increase their quality of life by helping them to meet their spiritual needs, if they want to. We must assist them to keep their hope and to reach their goals. We must also let them make choices. We must let them have some control over their environment and their care. Lastly, we must treat them with the highest level of dignity and respect at all times.

Increasing Physical Well-Being & Quality of Life

The human body has to be taken care of every day. Humans need:

  • air,
  • food,
  • water,
  • exercise,
  • sleep,
  • rest,
  • cleanliness and
  • comfort.

Nursing assistants can help increase the physical quality of life by making sure that their patients and residents have:

  • a good diet,
  • plenty of fluids,
  • regular exercise,
  • enough sleep and rest,
  • comfort and freedom from pain and
  • a clean, well groomed body.

People that are sick or old may need the nursing assistant to feed them or to at least help them with meals and fluids. Many sick and old people are not even able to drink water without your help. They will be thirsty and dehydrated if their need for fluid is not met. It is up to the nursing staff to make sure that these patients get enough fluids, especially when they are very sick, confused, weak and not able to help themselves. Offer sips of water every time you enter a person’s room if they are allowed to drink.

Nursing assistants must also make sure that a person gets enough sleep and rest. These needs are greatest when a person is sick or ill. We should give our patients a quiet, comfortable, home like place to sleep and rest. Rest and sleep are needed so that the patient has a good quality of life. People will be unhappy and unhealthy when they do not get enough sleep and rest.

In addition to sleep and rest, our patients need exercise. Exercise helps a person to remain active and able to function. Our patients should have regular exercise and activity that meets their needs. For some people walking or simple arm exercises in a chair is all that they can do. Others may be able to run or jog. Exercise should be enjoyable to the person and certainly something that they are physically able to do.

Some patients are in need of restorative care. They may have had an illness or something like a stroke, for example, that takes away some of their physical ability. Nursing assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and other healthcare providers should encourage the person to perform restorative and rehabilitation exercises to restore lost physical functioning after a stroke or another illness.

Increasing Emotional Well-Being & Quality of Life

Members of the healthcare team can help increase the quality of life for their patients and residents by helping the person to:

  • have an “I can do it” feeling. Give your patients things to do. Encourage them to comb their hair. Help them cut their meat. Let them succeed. Help them feel good about what they can do. Encourage the person to do as much as they can. Give the person praise when they do something that is a little hard to do. Honest praise will help the person to want to do more and more.

  • manage their stress and learn to relax. Give your patients a quiet and stress free place. Teach them how to deep breathe and relax. Some people may enjoy reading or watching television as a way to relax and lower stress.

  • have hope. Even people at the end of life need hope. Give them something to look forward to like a visit from their family.

  • accept change. Help them to accept change. Their lives and their bodies are often rapidly changing as they age.

  • be flexible. Help your patients to feel good about themselves even as their routines change.

  • feel safe and secure. Safety and security are very important human needs.

  • feel a sense of belonging and self worth. All human beings have worth. All human beings need to feel wanted. They want to be a part of a group. They want to be accepted and liked by others. Help them to participate in recreation and social groups when they choose to.

  • meet their goals. Help them do what they want to do within reason.

  • use their ability to think and make choices. Allow them as much freedom of choice as you can. Let them choose their meals, their activities and schedules.

  • feel satisfied, fulfilled and happy about things they do. Bring joy into everything they do.

  • maintain their dignity. Dignity is a basic human right. Call patients by their name, not "momma" or "honey".

  • have meaningful relationships with others. Help your patients interact with other patients or residents and their family members.

  • maintain a sense of their own identity. Everyone is different. Allow them to be who they are. Let them choose their clothing, their activities and their friends.

  • make their own decisions. Let them make decisions about their care and their routines. Give them information about their care and let them decide whether or not they want it.

Nursing assistants should also provide the patient or resident with privacy. They should be able to have privacy when they are talking to others on the telephone or in person. They should be able to receive and send their mail privately.

Increasing Spiritual Well-Being & Quality of Life

Some people are religious. Others are not. We should never force our own beliefs on other people but we should make it as easy as possible for our patents and residents to:

  • Meet with and speak to their priest, rabbi, minister or other religious leader
  • Attend religious services and groups
  • Pray in privacy

Quality of life is a highly important part of the nursing assistant's job. Increasing a person's physical, emotional and spiritual quality of life makes life much happier and healthy. It must be a part of everything we do.


Center for Quality of Life Research in Nursing Science. Quality of Life Compendium. (2010). [online] http://www.uib.no/isf/people/doc/qol/comp.htm

Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto Quality of Life Research Unit. (2010). Quality of Life. [online]

 U.S. Government Centers for Disease Control. (2010). Health Related Quality of Life. [online] http://www.cdc.gov/hrqol/

Wold, Gloria Hoffmann. (2008). Basic Geriatric Nursing. Elsevier Mosby.

Copyright © 2010 Alene Burke