Building a Person-Centered Culture for Dementia Care

by: DEBRA WOOD, R.N.

dementia care SmallWith millions of Americans experiencing dementia and the number growing with an aging population, researchers continue to seek effective prevention and treatment methods, while many long-term care providers are placing more emphasis on how best to care for people with dementia.

“We’re hearing more from families regarding their concerns about the quality of care and services available for their loved ones with dementia, not surprising given the millions of people affected by it and how costly care is,” says Jackie Pinkowitz, M.Ed, chair of CCAL-Advancing Person-Centered, a national advocacy organization, that created the person-centered National Dementia Initiative. Pinkowitz is also an instructor at Rutgers University School of Social Work, Gerontology Program.

The 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures from the Alzheimer’s Association estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, a number projected to increase to 7.1 million by 2025 and 13.8 million by 2050.

“The best practice is person-centered care,” reports Ruth Drew, director of family and information services at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago. “Care is focused on the individual.”

Person-centered care offers a humanistic and holistic approach to caring for someone. It incorporates not only physical considerations but also the person’s psycho-social and spiritual well-being. “It’s a multidimensional framework, and it requires owners and a governance board wanting to make these changes,” says Pinkowitz.

The Dementia Initiative brought together an expert panel to determine best person-centered practices and offer guidance. The initiative produced a consensus white paper, Dementia Care: The Quality Chasm. “We want stakeholders across research, policy and practice to use this paper as a call to action to collectively address and advance person-centered solutions,” Pinkowitz adds. The document presents a history of the philosophy for person-centered care as well as operational and personalized practices for delivering care in this way. It also offers recommendations to address barriers and challenges to care.

Many LeadingAge members have embraced person-centered care and have developed innovative programs to advance dementia care within their organizations.

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