Many professionals consider their practice is person centred but I often struggle to find evidence to support their claim. So what does being person centred mean and what does it look like?
What Being Person Centred Means
There is no universally accepted definition. The key principle for being person centred is to support and empower people to make choices and have control about how they want to live their life. Person centred planning encourages people to be more involved in decisions about their care so they get the support and services that are appropriate for their needs and preferences. It’s about seeing the person as an individual before their age and disabilities, focusing on their preferences, expectations, needs and circumstances and trying to see things from their perspective.
Being person-centred also means being aware of a person’s emotional and spiritual well-being. Spiritual care is not just about religious beliefs and practices: it also reflects the person’s values, relationships and need for self-expression.
We need to be aware that people are sometimes unable to tell us what they want. There are many reasons for this; they may be living with dementia, have a physical disability, severe hearing loss or a mental health condition, which makes communication difficult. We may therefore have to use appropriate communication aids to find out what they want and actively encourage them to participate in their care planning so they can be real partners in making decisions about their care choices.
When planning in a person-centred way with someone, we need to think about the effect of what we’re doing on the person as a whole. We therefore need to know the person and find out as much information as possible. Before you begin care planning, ask the person (or the person/people who know them well) about themselves and the things that are important to them. Listen carefully to what they are saying (sometimes what they are not saying can be as important) and ask probing questions to check your understanding is accurate.
All too often I am asked to undertake an independent care review and find the Manager and carers know very little about the person, especially if they have dementia and don’t have a family. What did they do for a living? Where did they live when they were younger and what did they enjoy doing? What made them happy? What made them sad? What are their likes and dislikes? and one of the most important questions of all, what is important to them?
Don’t only focus on what keeps people healthy and safe. See the person as well and what matters to them- not just what the matter is with them.