Sometimes, when we have a long “to-do” list, we often focus only on the tasks at hand to try to keep ourselves on schedule. Other times, dealing with emergencies that pop up diverts our attention elsewhere. It can easy to forget why we are doing this work. After all, being efficient and getting things done are great qualities but not when it happens to the detriment of care our residents receive.

This is why the practice of Person Centered Care is so important. The philosophy behind Person Centered Care is that you take the time to learn about each resident to see them as a unique person with their own personality, preferences, and personal boundaries. Person Center Care encourages staff to remove the “assembly line” or “cookie cutter” approach to care and instead personalize the care and assistance they receive.

Practice Care in a Person Centered Way

Practicing Person Center Care essentially puts residents’ choices and wishes as our top priority, ahead of keeping on schedule or adhering to our “to do” list. Here are a few examples of how making your schedule the first concern can inconvenience your residents:

  • Interrupting a resident from her chosen activity to deliver medicine instead of waiting for her to finish her activity
  • Pushing a resident to eat during a standard meal time window, whether she is hungry or not, because it works best for your schedule
  • Waking a sleeping resident to take care of housekeeping duties instead of waiting until she wakes up on her own

By allowing your residents to make decisions about their care, you allow them to maintain independence and dignity and have a voice in how they want to live in their home (because, yes, the residence is their home!)

Here are a few ways you can establish a Person Centered relationship with your residents:

  • Start by reviewing a resident’s Individual Service Plan (also called a resident services plan or care plan) to better understand a resident’s goals, services they receive, and who the other caregivers are who provide these services. Also, be conscious of the level of assistance they need so you don’t overstep what is needed.
  • Go beyond the superficial and get more personal. Reach out to your residents and get to know them, like you would when making a new friend. Not only should you engage them in conversation but, most importantly, you should also listen!
  • Learn about your residents’ routines: are they early risers, do they prefer to eat lunch later in the afternoon, do they take a daily walk, or do they participate in community activities? By learning your residents’ preferences and interests, you can provide the best level of care while keeping their wishes in mind. Also, be conscious of the level of assistance they need so you don’t overstep what is needed.

When Residents Go Against Best Interest

In the philosophy of Person Centered Care, we place decision making authority in the hands of our residents. But how do we respond when residents make decisions that go against their best interest? For example, how do we best care for a resident who refuses assistance in daily tasks, or one who refuses to take her medication, or another resident who insists she does not need to use a cane or walker as an aide – especially when we know these refusals can be detrimental to a resident’s health or safety.

In situations like these it becomes necessary to schedule a meeting that includes the necessary staff, the resident, and appropriate family members where the situation is discussed and reviewed. Ultimately, the resident’s freedom of choice will influence the outcome, but at the same time, risks associated with the resident’s decision are considered. This usually leads to a written agreement, called an informed consent/shared risk agreement, that acknowledges the resident and/or resident’s family are aware of the potential risks that may occur based on the resident’s choice and that limits the community’s liability in the event the resident incurs injuries.

By allowing your residents to make decisions about their care, they are able to maintain their independence and dignity. More importantly, they have a voice in how they want to live in their home. because, remember, your community really is their home).

If you’re interested in implementing Person Centered Care in your assisted living facility, learn more about it with SeniorLivingU’s DVD, Assisted Living: A New Approach to Care or the eLearning course, Person Centered Care.