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Person-Centered Care and Its Role in Assisted Living: A Guide

6 minute readLast updated December 5, 2022
Written by Rebecca Schier-Akamelu, assisted living writer
Medically reviewed by Adria Thompson, Certified Dementia PractitionerSpeech-language pathologist Adria Thompson is the owner of Be Light Care Consulting and specializes in creating easily digestible, accessible, and practical dementia content.
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Person-centered care caters to the needs of the individual, meaning their interests and personal preferences — not just their medical condition or the areas where they need assistance. This holistic approach can be found in medical settings but also works well in assisted living communities. Person-centered care encourages seniors to play a more active role in their own care and voice their preferences. Best of all, anyone can support their loved one in this care model. As a family member, you can honor your loved one’s care preferences and be an advocate for them.

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What is person-centered care?

Person-centered care is a process of discovering an individual’s preferences and values and using them to guide all aspects of their care. It’s a collaborative effort between the care recipient and anyone who supports them.[01] The philosophy of person-centered care can be applied to several situations, such as hospital stays, memory care communities, or assisted living communities, and anyone who’s a part of your loved one’s care team can be involved, including doctors, nurses, and caregivers.

By finding out what’s most important to the individual, care providers allow that individual to be a part of crafting their own care plan. To this point, some communities may use language like “care partner” instead of “caregiver” — it reminds everyone that the senior receiving assistance and the professional providing assistance are both active participants in the care plan.

What’s involved in person-centered care?

Typically, person-centered care involves letting your loved one’s doctor have access to their full medical history so they can integrate care with other specialists. It also allows anyone involved in your loved one’s care, like a caregiver, to understand big-picture health goals related to your loved one’s specific health condition.[02] Since person-centered care focuses on the whole person, psychological and spiritual wellness will likely also be addressed by a caregiver. This means that personal care, activity, and social preferences will also be taken into account by your loved one’s caregivers.

What are the benefits of person-centered care?

As person-centered care becomes normalized and more common in senior care settings, both seniors and medical professionals experience benefits, like:

  • Accessible and collaborative care
  • Prioritizing physical comfort as well as emotional well-being
  • Respecting personal and family values
  • Encouraging family presence
  • Sharing information quickly to allow for informed decisions
  • Collaborative decision-making that includes the patient and family members [03]

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How person-centered care works in assisted living

While much of the research and language around person-centered care focuses on medical situations, this care philosophy is also applied in assisted living communities. A community may advertise themselves as offering person-centered care, but the best way to find out is through a tour.

One of the main tenets of person-centered care is knowing about the person being cared for. On a community level, this would mean that residents’ interests and values are evident in the community. On your tour, see if you notice any of the following:

  • Residents being greeted by name in a friendly way by caregivers and other staff
  • Residents engaging in activities of their choosing or catering to their interests
  • Residents having a conversation with a caregiver or other staff member as an equal
  • Residents whose opinions and preferences are honored as they receive care
  • Residents having access to Alexa-enabled devices personalized to their unique needs

The concept of person-centered care can go beyond activities and interactions. Meals in assisted living, for example, can be catered towards the residents’ preferences as well as their dietary requirements. Self-expression and autonomy are also good indicators of a person-centered environment. On a tour, you might note how the residents are dressed and whether you see personal touches in any rooms (if you have the chance to see living spaces).

Personalized care plans in assisted living

Some assisted living communities have tiers or levels of care, while others add care services individually. When discussing options for your loved one, try to get a sense of how personalized your loved one’s care will be. Senior care is never a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and your loved one should feel comfortable voicing when they require assistance and when they would prefer to do things independently. Families can also collaborate with caregivers on their loved one’s care plan, if desired.

When you do commit to an assisted living community, you’ll probably complete an intake form that allows your loved one to include information important to their care. This includes the following information:

  • Religious affiliation
  • Preferred name
  • Former occupation
  • Family members
  • Favorite interests, hobbies, and activities
  • Favorite travel locations

The dietary manager will also want to gather information to make meal times more pleasant and enjoyable. They may ask questions about your loved one’s favorite meals and fresh ingredients as well as any information regarding special dietary requirements. Being asked these questions is a good thing — it shows that the community takes a proactive approach to person-centered care.

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How to find a person-centered assisted living community

Keep in mind that there are many assisted living communities to choose from, so you should search thoroughly for places that best fit your loved one’s values and preferences. For instance, if your loved one is a devout Catholic, you might want to start your search around Catholic assisted living options in your area. Depending on your area, you may find many communities that say they offer person-centered care — but with extra help in your search, you can find out which communities truly deliver on that promise. Our Senior Living Advisors can help.

The Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom can provide you with detailed information about the communities in your area and help you find one that’s a match with your loved one’s interests. Best of all, this service comes at no cost to you.

SHARE THE ARTICLE

  1. The American Geriatrics Society Expert Panel on Person-Centered Care. (2015, December 2). Person-centered care: A definition and essential elements. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

  2. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Person-centered care.

  3. NEJM. (2017, January 1). What Is Patient-Centered Care??NEJM Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery.

Meet the Author
Rebecca Schier-Akamelu, assisted living writer

Rebecca Schier-Akamelu is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom, specializing in topics such as assisted living and payment options. With more than a decade of experience as a content creator, Rebecca brings a person-centered approach to her work and holds a certificate in digital media and marketing from Duke University.

Edited by

Danny Szlauderbach

Reviewed by

Adria Thompson, Certified Dementia Practitioner

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