The new buzz in nursing homes and community-based residential settings is all about striving to create a “person-centered” setting. What exactly does that mean? Literature refers to the process as moving away from institutational or traditional care to individualized person-directed practices that embrace choice and autonomy. It’s a great concept, but where do we start?

Person-centered care means more than sprucing up the environment to be more home like, enhancing the dining experience, or providing the option to sleep in — it’s about how people are treated. The core changes need to come from the values, beliefs, and actions of those in leadership as well every person that interacts with a resident.

To truly practice the concept of person-centered care, each member of the team must buy into and demonstrate dignity and respect in everyday interactions with residents. The basic approach of how each of us is treated has an effect on our self esteem and outlook on life.  A kind word or a harsh tone can set a negative tone for our day, just as positive caring words and interactions have an enormous positive impact. Language is an important aspect.  We should choose our words carefully and be mindful not to label individuals. These practices, demonstrated consistently, will help promote an outcome that will provide choice and self-determination for individuals.

It does not take a lot of money or resources to demonstrate a person-centered approach, but it does take a commitment and belief in the manner that each person is treated. Adhering to the following guidelines is a good place to start.

  • Provide privacy
  • Know the person’s needs
  • Talk directly to the person, referring by name and use eye contact
  • Incorporate preferences and choices into daily routines
  • Inform the person of change in daily Routines
  • Work at the individual’s pace
  • Demonstrate dignity and respect in every interaction

Mary Nelson
Vice President, CMSS

Chicago Senior Living