What does person-centered care really mean and how to effectively practice it

Peter Bewert, Managing Director of Meaningful Care Matters

According to The Health Foundation’s 2016 Quick Guide on ‘Person-centered care made simple: What everyone should know about person-centered care’, the concept is described as a way of thinking and doing things that sees the people using health and social services as equal partners in planning, developing, and monitoring care to make sure it meets their needs. We fully support this theory, however this is misguided as the only way of thinking. True person-centered care is a lifestyle and begins with us. Without being able to live, breathe, feel and embrace the experience of the moment then we will be ineffective in achieving true personhood in our interactions.

With an ageing population that keeps growing due to better healthcare facilities and services, a catch-22 emerges, as those services are often overstretched with rising numbers of those requiring care, and tighter purse strings to provide it.

Therefore, it is more critical than ever, that we understand high-quality care that affords people the best possible quality of life is more than a task. We must rethink the approach and embrace a more meaningful connection based in relationship, connection and emotion-led care. It’s time we learnt the language of leadership in care settings through a lens of the heart rather than head knowledge alone.

Person-centered care, however, is not a new concept. In fact, several forms of the model have been referenced in literature for many years, stretching as far back to the work of Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung. For instance, in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung Volume 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche, Carl explores the second half of life and the importance of life review to find meaning. He famously wrote: “one cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life’s morning: for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.”

Overtime, others have theorised these early concepts of person-centered care and gained a greater understanding of how personhood needs to begin with self. Professor Thomas Kitwood explored the concept in the 1980s and in his 1997 book, Dementia reconsidered: The person comes first, he looked at applying the model to dementia care. He quoted: “people with dementia need to have an identity and their caregivers must help maintain this identity”. Work by Dawn Brooker, Director of the University of Worcester Association for Dementia Studies, also explored how person-centered care in her 1997 PhD on Improving the quality of care for older people with mental health problems. This was greatly influenced by the works of Kitwood who mentored her research.

We need to embrace our own vulnerabilities and understand that emotions and feelings matter, this enables us to consider the theoretical processes and aspects which are critical to ongoing sustainability and success to be more than a task.  When we approach care from this humanistic perspective, using emotions and feelings as our lens, the quality of the lived experience is impacted from a meaningful engagement and not coloured by theory alone.

A culture of personhood relies heavily on taking the theoretical knowledge, referred to by Meaningful Care Matters as ‘head knowledge’, and turning it into ‘heart knowledge’. It is about the lived experience of not just the people we care for, but also integrating our own (the people caring for) life experience and story of life into the culture of care. This is the critical ingredient for a true culture which is meaningful and that matters. The two experiences are not mutually exclusive and when we approach this from an inclusivity perspective, we experience what person centeredness is all about. People matter. Moments matter. Feelings matter and we all create this culture by living and being it, not by doing it.

The person-centered care model encourages cross-party collaboration between health and social care professionals and the people who use their services. In a nutshell, it has been created to support people to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to more effectively manage and make informed decisions about their own health and healthcare. The model is bespoke to the individual, being tailored to their needs, ensuring they are cared for in a way that treats them with dignity, compassion and respect.

At Meaningful Care Matters, personhood, meaning and mattering is at the core of every single service stream. This is the heartbeat of who we are and how we support cultures of care to be infiltrated by meaningful moments that matter. Our model is very practically orientated and is not just about care, it’s about all aspects of business support and the regulations and compliance needs, whilst being uncompromising on being emotionally intelligent at its core. It encourages businesses and organisations within the care sector to communicate in a language of feelings and emotions, rather than just the language of the medical model. This way we ensure a better quality of life for all of us.

Peter Bewert is the Managing Director of Meaningful Care Matters, a leading care and organisational development group that specialises in helping health and social care providers to access a variety of support services. The group helps to facilitate the creation, reinvigoration and sustainable implementation of person-centred care cultures where people matter, feelings matter and we are ‘Free to be Me’.

Author: Editorial Team

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