What is meant by the term “person-centered care” when used as an amenity for a long-term care setting?

Person-centered care is centered around the individual’s personal choices; developing and assessing care to make sure it is appropriate to his/her needs and involves putting the individual and his/her family at the heart of all decisions.

It is a collaborative team philosophy in which everyone is onboard with the individual’s care. Person-centered care should be a standard, best-practices philosophy in any care setting, not just an amenity. Caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are concerned about the quality of care and services for their loved ones by long-term care providers. When care is focused on the individual, when the physical, psychosocial and spiritual well-being is considered, then person-centered care is achieved at its fullest, and the caregiver is more confident about the quality of life that is enhanced at the long-term care setting.

Person-centered care involves compassion, dignity and respect. There is shared decision-making and self-management support. In essence, it is giving the individual more autonomy and control of his/her own healthcare.

The object is to give the individual more choice and control so that services are more responsive to the individual and designed around that individual’s likes and dislikes, rather than his/her having to fit around the services. In other words, we should have the mindset, “no decision about me without me.”

When seeking a long-term care setting placement for a loved one, investigate if the care setting embraces the person-centered care philosophy and if this philosophy is supported in the environment and adopted among the entire staff. Switching from an institutional focus to a person-centered focus requires a change of organizational culture, i.e., “culture change,” and it not an easy task.

The practice is about taking the time to know each individual and their interests and values and focusing on what he/she can do, not what the disease has done to them. Person-centered care builds relationships and helps the individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia connect with other people and gain a greater sense of self.

There are many resources available to learn more about person-centered care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services created a person-centered training program, the Hand-in-Hand toolkit, which is an excellent educational resource for staff in nursing homes, and includes ways to handle behaviors and how to approach resident and families. The National Culture Change Coalition, Pioneer Network, offers resources and services at pioneernetwork.net. The Louisiana culture change coalition, LEADER (Louisiana Enhancing Aging with Dignity through Empowerment and Respect), champions person-centered communities where aging adults and their caregivers are valued, respected and honored.

Visit laleader.org.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.