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How Person-Centered Care is Changing the Senior Care Industry

Caitlin Burm
By Caitlin BurmMarch 2, 2017

We recently spoke with CCAL: Advancing Person-Centered Living, a nonprofit national consumer advocacy and education organization focused on raising awareness about person-centered care.

Jackie Pinkowitz, M.Ed., and Chair of the CCAL, discussed her experience with person-centered care with us, and writes about how it is currently changing the senior care industry.

Person-Centered Care

Like many of you, I have been a loving family caregiver for four aging parents, each of whom had individual needs, which changed over time. I spent much energy seeking quality options across the spectrum of senior living: from assisted living communities, to independent communities and finally to long-term skilled nursing and memory care facilities.

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One thing that remained consistent in my searches, was a person-centered care perspective. When you begin to seek senior living options for yourself or your loved ones, I hope that you will also adopt this perspective — which requires an understanding that person-centered care is a holistic approach that focuses on enhancing the dimensions of one’s health and well-being, which includes:

  • Creative being
  • Intellectual being
  • Social wellness
  • Spiritual being
  • Physical health

Person-centered care encompasses the activities and services planned according to each resident’s personal preferences and values. This approach honors each senior’s choice, dignity and individuality, which enhances both quality of care and life for seniors.

What Person-Centered Care Means for Seniors

From the senior’s perspective, this type of care includes the following practices and principles:

  1. I have the right to determine how best to meet my needs.
  2. It must include me, my family and team in decision-making.
  3. My care must be empowering, nurturing and respectful.
  4. My care should optimize my physical and psychosocial well-being.
  5. “Nothing about me, without me.”

When seniors offer their perspective on quality of care and services, they most often describe how the service was experienced by them.

They are saying, “See me for the person I am. See me for all the things I believe in, care about and love to do… Please don’t diminish my personhood just because I need some assistance with activities of daily living.”

When applied in memory care settings, all of the above-mentioned experiences, practices and relationships are also enhancing the lives of individuals with cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Read more about how person-centered memory care enhances residents with Alzheimer’s lives, and about creating a person-centered memory care setting on CCAL’s website.

Why Person-Centered Care is Slow to Evolve in the U.S.

In 2001, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) report titled “Crossing the Quality Chasm” called for a redesign of our nation’s healthcare system, and described healthcare in America as “fragmented and impersonal.” The IOM report stated that a critical element needed in the redesign was a shift to a person-centered approach moving away from the traditional clinician/disease centered one.

In the decade following the IOM report, however, little national progress had been made to shift to making person-centeredness the standard of healthcare and long-term services and supports (LTSS). The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 helps to reinforce the need for change by requiring that services funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services be provided in a person-centered manner.

A growing body of empirical evidence indicates that person-centered practices are more pleasant to experience, help to optimize health and well-being outcomes, and result in higher satisfaction.

According to Jason A. Wolf, PhD, and Executive Director of the Beryl Institute, “The healthcare experience… is based on every interaction a patient and/or their family have on the care journey and is ultimately measured by the very perceptions those individuals have of their experience.”

Where to Find the Right Person-Centered Living Community

After you contact a senior living advisor and begin visiting different person-centered senior living communities, I encourage you to spend time at the community and see how comfortable you and your loved ones feel being there. Ask yourselves if you feel the following principles are being practiced:

  • Every person is provided a autonomy and independence, and is treated with dignity, privacy and respect
  • Services are provided in a respectful way that also includes their family and larger support network
  • People have the right to determine their needs, decide how to have those needs met, and to be provided a means to give feedback about the quality of the services and supports

Moving into a new community is a major transition for the prospective resident and your entire family, so I urge you to drop by the community at different times of the day and week. First, chat informally with residents and staff to see if they are friendly and positive about the community. Then, look for life enrichment within the community to see if they are honoring the residents’ life experiences and routines in the natural rhythms of daily living.

These are the person-centered elements that contribute to both families and residents’ sense of belonging and well-being. We are wishing you much success in seeking person-centered care in senior living!

Do you have experience with person-centered care? How did you find a person-centered care community that you or your parent loved? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

About the Author

Jackie Pinkowitz, M.Ed., is the Chair of the CCAL: Advancing Person-Centered Living, and a co-leader of the Dementia Action Alliance and the National Dementia Initiative.

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