Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

How does person-centered care inform aging?

May 23, 2022

How does person-centered care inform aging?

As we continue to celebrate Older Americans Month’s theme of “Age My Way,” I wanted to explain the concept of person-centered care. Person-centered care can be applied throughout the medical industry. However, it’s also a key principle when we think about how we’d like to age. It’s a core value for us at Heart2Heart.

There are a lot of different ways to map out what person-centered care looks like. My favorite model to think through is the four C’s: Culture, Care, Communication and Collaboration.

Culture is an important aspect of honoring the senior. If we’re not intentional about respecting a person’s culture, it can be easy to overlook or ignore that vital aspect of who they are. Family dynamics play into a person’s cultural identity as well.

Collaboration has to be at the forefront of any person-centered care plan. No matter what stage of life they’re in, seniors want to be involved in the choices that will affect their lives.

Next, how do we best care for a person, rain or shine? How do you bring the resources to them rather than bringing them to the resources? Can we replicate the services of a hospital at home, for example?

Thirdly, how do we communicate with a person? Communication has to be honest. I don’t think it does any good to give a senior unrealistic hopes or expectations.

We tell our kids they can be anything they want to be. But if they want to be an astronaut, it’s important to communicate how hard they will have to work to reach that goal – a goal that only a handful of people have accomplished.

The same honest and open conversations are important to keeping a senior at the center of their care plan.

Finally, collaboration has to be at the forefront of any person-centered care plan. No matter what stage of life they’re in, seniors want to be involved in the choices that will affect their lives.

Even if your loved ones’ expectations are unrealistic, correcting them isn’t going to help and may only will lead to an argument. What can you do to work alongside them?

For example, if a family member is struggling to remember important details, you might help them leave a Post-it note in a key place. If the person asks about the note, there’s a gentle approach to reminding them.

Try: “You asked me to put it there, so you don’t forget. Being forgetful is part of getting older. But it’s OK. The note will help.”

Every situation has its own unique circumstances. When we keep the person at the center – the senior who has their own thoughts, feelings and desires – we give them a better experience and a better quality of life.

In the next blog, I’ll explain how a long-term care waiver can help maintain independence by removing financial barriers.

What are some ways you can keep the senior in your life at the center of their care plan?

If you don’t have a senior in your life, become a Heart2Heart volunteer!

Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida. He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master's degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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