Over the last 10-15 years, a new trend has emerged in the world of long-term care. “Person-Centered Care” recognizes that seniors are more than just physical beings with a medical diagnosis. It’s an approach that focuses not only on the physical needs of the person but on their social and emotional needs as well.

“Person-centered care…. seeks to put the person ahead of the task while creating an environment that promotes a true quality of life regardless of physical or cognitive condition,” states the website of the State University of New York at Buffalo’s UB Institute for Person-Centered Care. “Relationships are at the heart of this philosophy. It seeks to celebrate the individual, helping them to grow and experience a life worth living regardless of their clinical condition.”

Person-centered care is different than the traditional form of care offered in most facilities serving the elderly. Traditional nursing homes and other long-term care facilities use a medical model of care that is based largely on institutional schedules to which the individual must conform, not the other way around. This style views the doctor or caregiver as the decision-maker with the power to determine what the individual will eat when they will sleep, what medications they will take and ultimately, what their quality of life will be. This is the opposite of a person-centered approach.

Person-Centered Organizations

Person-centered care considers the unique needs and desires of each individual. This approach has given rise to new organizations, including the Eden Alternative® and the Pioneer Network that are helping nursing homes and other long-term care facilities transform from institutional-like settings to places that are more home-like and value choice, dignity, and respect. Washington State has embraced the Eden Alternative approach. In a March 3, 2003, article in the Seattle Times, “State embraces quality-of-life changes for nursing homes,” the author wrote, “Only a dozen nursing homes in Washington are Eden-certified, but a unique initiative is underway to increase that number. The state is the first in the country to teach Eden Alternative basics as part of a new federal program to improve quality of care at the country’s 17,000 nursing homes.”

Another organization, the Green House Project, began in 2003 to build residential homes where elders can live with “dignity, comfort and companionship.” One of the newest Green House projects is Jamie’s Place, an adult family home operated by the Methow Valley Family Home Center Association in Winthrop, WA.

We in the home care business know that seniors thrive when their needs and desires for physical as well as emotional care are met in the comfort of their own homes. That this understanding is now being incorporated into long-term care services is a promising trend indeed.

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