When Person-Centered Care Becomes Policy

Person-centered care isn’t just a best practice—it’s now a regulatory requirement in many care settings.

No matter how long you’ve been working in health care, you’ve heard the term person-centered care—the practice of partnering with a patient or client to provide care that reflects their own individual preferences and values. The effectiveness of this approach has inspired new guidelines and regulations that mandate person-centered care in acute, post-acute, and long-term care settings.
 
In Dementia Capable Care training, the best practice of person-centered care drives us to uncover a client’s best abilities—or as we call them, “Can Do,” “Will Do,” and “May Do.”
 
 

Can Do – Will Do – May Do—there are practical ways to support an individual’s best abilities, and research that supports person-centered care.

Can Do abilities are an individual’s physical, emotional, sensory and cognitive abilities in the present moment. An example of Can Do abilities might be the fact that an individual has difficulty walking, or that they’re hard of hearing. A person-centered care plan would ensure staff provide aid or companionship for walking or are provided with hearing aids as needed and seated in a spot where they can best see and hear ongoing activities.
 
In one study, caregivers in long-term care homes found that person-centered care plans helped them:
  • Learn about residents on a personal level
  • Facilitate behavior management
  • Improve care planning by detailing residents’ needs and preferences
  • Decrease caregiver fatigue
 
Will Do abilities stem from an individual’s relevant interests, preferences, culture, values, and life history. An example of Will Do abilities might be an individual’s opportunity to reminisce using information from their life story, promoting a conversation in a safe environment that allows them to grieve losses and relive moments of joy from their past.
 
A study of person-centered care for LGBT elders found that this population has not only been underserved, but under-identified—a phenomenon which could be profoundly and positively improved by the facilitation of person-centered care. This approach, after all, is about honoring an individual’s culture, values, and preferences, and could make a tremendous difference in eliminating fear, stigma, and judgment by creating truly safe and supportive cultures of care.
 
May Do abilities are inspired by the potential within an individual that needs a care partner’s facilitation or environmental support to be realized. An example of May Do abilities might be when an individual is given a level of hands-on care that is too involved for their early stage dementia. A person-centered care plan would allow the individual to do their own bathing and dressing—since cognitively, they still can—instead of requiring total staff assistance. 
 
A study of non-clinical professionals in an assisted living setting confirmed that all sorts of tasks can be facilitated in a way that supports residents’ quality of life—even seemingly mundane activities like going for a walk or clearing away dishes. In fact, the authors recommended that all staff—even “housekeepers or maintenance mechanics”—who would have direct contact with residents get key training in person-centered care to support the outcomes of the organization. 
 
 

Fulfill regulatory requirements, exceed best practices, and transform lives by training your staff to deliver person-centered care.

The aspect that regulators seem to be most focused on incorporating into everyday care is a facilitation of Will Do abilities—those that stem a person’s relevant interests, preferences, culture, values, and life history. Why is this so critical? Is it difficult to deliver this kind of care? Does it really impact outcomes?
 
Look back to the research examples I’ve shared. Because person-centered care is so intrinsically tied to an individual’s ability to thrive, it does significantly impact outcomes and it’s more critical than ever. We all respond more positively to care when we feel understood by our caregivers. We’re far more likely to have a positive experience and cooperate with a schedule when we feel that care partners truly respect our wishes. I frequently hear from residents that they want to feel dignity and respect. What better way to show that than to honor their lifelong preferences, routines, and habits?
 
Care partners can build a bridge to a person’s beliefs, values, culture and life history through information gathering tools like our free Life Story Questionnaire. They can rapidly take what they learn and use it to develop person-centered care plans for preferred daily routines, dining preferences, and relevant leisure activities that honor each person’s life story.
 
This focus on Will Do is so vital because it leads us to May Do—empowerment connects individuals to their true potential. If we don’t create a plan for someone to embrace their individuality, it won’t happen on its own. Caregivers who fail to consider an individual’s Will Do will never see what they May Do—they’ll fall back on the old standard care plan that gets the “necessaries” done but neglects the emotional well-being of the individual in their care. Which in turn will limit the scope of any positive outcomes such a person might experience—and deserves to experience.
 
A person-centered, stage-informed model makes it possible to facilitate care that supports optimal outcomes for adults with dementia. At Dementia Care Specialists, we’ve trained care partners across the country in this very model. While regulatory mandates regarding person-centered care might be new to the industry, these values have been at the center of our evidence-based training and consulting services for a very long time. Person-centered care is the foundation of a Dementia Capable Society.
 
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