The facts about person centred care

Receiving care which puts the person with dementia's needs and desires first is called a 'person centred approach.' Here's how to implement it.

In a nutshell

When someone has dementia it's easy to just see the illness and forget about the person they used to be. The person centred approach to dementia was developed to stop this happening and to ensure that the person living with dementia remains the focus – not the illness - and that they are always treated with respect, and as unique individuals. The premise, 'nothing about me, without me' is at the heart of the person centred approach.

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Three facts worth knowing

1. The person centred approach was developed in the UK by Professor Thomas Kitwood, a pioneer in the field of dementia care in the 1980s and has since received worldwide recognition and praise.

2. Person centred care has been shown in studies to reduce agitation and aggression in people with dementia.

3. Another study of person centred care showed it significantly reduced the number of people with dementia needing hospital treatment or anti-psychotic medication – both of which can be the result of aggressive behaviour.

Three ways to make it work

If you’re caring for someone with dementia you can ensure your care is more 'person centred’ by:

1. Giving a choice of food at mealtimes. Either ask what they’d like, or show pictures to help. Failing that, whenever possible, give them something they've always enjoyed, and would choose to make themselves.

2. Little things mean a lot – too much choice may be overwhelming but some is essential. For example, choosing which necklace, lipstick, watch or tie to wear, might seem insignificant, but it can make someone with dementia feel more in control of their own life.

3. Ask yourself: Am I seeing the world through their eyes? If the answer is yes (or as much as you can) you're using a person centred approach and doing a great job.

Don't worry

Many people who care for loved ones with dementia use the person centred approach instinctively, without even realising it, and with good results. Person centred care can make someone with dementia feel calmer and happier – which should make your life a little easier, too. But it's important not to berate yourself if you can't always do things the way they'd prefer. Doing your best is what counts.

Your person centred checklist

If your loved one is in a nursing home you might want to check that they're receiving the person centred care they have a right to.
Here's what to look out for to make sure their care plan is right for them.

1. Are they being treated with dignity and respect?
2. Do staff know their likes and dislikes, their favourite music, hobbies or when they like to take a bath?
3. Is their opinion and personality understood and taken into account?
4. Do they seem valued as a human being, regardless of their age or how advanced their illness is?

Good to know

The person centred approach now underpins the vast majority of care for people with dementia. Most good nursing homes will already be implementing it and be very happy to discuss how they do this with you.

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