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 Personalizing a care plan to the unique needs of each person results in expanded skills for the caregiver and better care for the individual. Here are the six core concepts you’ll need to develop a person-centered care plan.

Person-centered care isn’t a new idea. Personalizing or tailoring care to fit the unique needs of a patient is a longstanding staple of exceptional service in home care, senior living, skilled nursing, or any other facet of care. But how often are you able to adhere to it with ever-increasing workloads and dwindling team numbers? 

While you may not want to say that your day is comprised of getting the boxes checked, it’s often the case. Sometimes you’re thankful to just get through the to-dos and reminders scribbled on a wrinkled post-it or paper towel. It’s not surprising that the person you’re caring for can get lost in the shuffle. But regardless of your workload or the type of work you do, you can become person-centered. 

By consistently practicing the following six core concepts of person-centered care, they’ll become second nature rather than feeling like extra work. In the process, you’ll be enhancing the treatment and customer satisfaction of those in your care.  

6 Core Concepts of Person-Centered Care: 

  1. Effective Listening 
  2. Valuable Conversations 
  3. Shared Decision-Making & Goals 
  4. Respect of Choices 
  5. Successful Care Planning 
  6. Emotional Understanding  

Now you know them. But how do you infuse them into caregiving on a daily basis? Let’s review each concept to explain. 

Person-centered Care Concept #1: Effective Listening

Effective listening goes beyond hearing what a person is saying; it requires you to observe and pick up on verbal and non-verbal messages, and then provide appropriate feedback to let the person know you’re listening.

Encourage (and facilitate if possible) two-way communication, going beyond symptoms to discuss a person’s day, how they’re feeling emotionally, and how they’re functioning. But don’t just converse. Effectively listen to the person in front of you to understand their concerns, symptoms, experiences, and any challenging behaviors.

Tips for effective listening:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Avoid interrupting
  • Make sure the person feels heard

Person-centered Care Concept #2: Valuable Conversations  

As the name implies, valuable conversations are discussions in which all parties give and receive beneficial information. These conversations are equal parts talking and listening, so our previous concept of effective listening plays a big role in succeeding with this second core concept of person-centered care. 

In addition to actively listening to the other person, you must also pull your weight by talking to them and sharing feedback. This kind of dialogue is tremendous for building rapport, fostering understanding, and getting what you both need for the discussion to be productive. 

Tips for engaging in valuable conversations 

  • Encourage people to talk to you about their symptoms, thoughts, and feelings, and then encourage solutions based on your discussion. 
  • Listen as much as you speak 
  • Adapt to each situation and speak as much or as little as needed to foster a valuable exchange of information. One size doesn’t fit all. 
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Person-centered Care Concept #3: Shared Decisions & Goals:  

Regardless of your years of experience, training, or education, it’s important to remember that it’s not up to you to make all the decisions and set the goals for a person’s care plan. Whether you’re developing a COPD care plan or planning on using a person-centered approach to Alzheimer’s care, positive outcomes arise when people work together for a common goal- and in healthcare, the goal is usually to improve a person’s quality of life. Every action should spring from a collective understanding and choices should be made with the individual you are caring for in the lead.   

Tips for shared decision making and goal setting:  

  • Remind yourself and the person you are caring for of the current goals and how they may be working or not.  
  • Always make changes together and share in the decisions that will create positive outcomes. 

Person-centered Care Concept #4: Respect of Choices:  

When you focus on person-centered care, don’t judge the person in front of you. No matter how you need to resolve a situation you’re faced with, remember that everyone has a different perspective, choice, style, and reaction. After all, it’s ultimately the choice of the person you’re caring for, not yours. Lean on your training, education, and experience to suggest proven approaches and help guide them towards the best outcomes, but respect that the final choice is theirs.  

Creating a collaborative, communicative, relationship can go a long way towards a person listening to, and respecting, your expertise. Putting the time into creating that rapport with the person pays off when striving to help them make the most beneficial choices for their care plan.  

Tips for assisting, but always respecting a person’s choices:  

  • Find common ground.  
  • Foster an environment where the person feels comfortable expressing their concerns and preferences without fear of judgement.  
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated.  

Person-centered Care Concept #5: Successful Care Planning 

Break down all care plans into manageable steps with clear instructions. Then follow-up and adapt as needed. There is no perfect plan to care for anyone, so change the priorities as necessary and don’t forget to celebrate positive steps—even the smallest wins! 

In healthcare, the team consists of multiple players, so don’t ever be afraid to reach out and ask for help to find solutions. A successful person-centered care plan requires flexibility, and often entails pivoting to better meet the needs of a struggling patient or resident.  

Compromise between colleagues is another keystone of effective care. When employees feel they’re getting the short end of the stick, it can impact their ability and/or willingness to function at their peak. Therefore, compromising on scheduling, especially around holidays, can be a big driver of employee satisfaction which can result in successful person-centered care. Include everyone in the planning process and see how positive outcomes arise.  

Tips for successful care planning:  

  • Master the art of flexibility and be comfortable changing on the fly to meet the unique needs of each person. 
  • Create an atmosphere of compromise between team members to establish an environment where employees are willing to give as much as they receive.  
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Person-centered Care Concept #6: Emotional Understanding 

Being in tune with emotions and signs of emotional distress makes a world of difference in the care you provide. While you can never understand exactly what a person is going through, you can understand that they may just need you to be there and say, “it’s okay.”  

Do your best to pick up on cues that may allow you to understand a person’s current emotional state. Doing so will allow you to steer a conversation or an entire care plan in a direction that tells the person you understand them and are doing what you can to meet their needs.  

Tips for mastering emotional understanding:  

  • Check in frequently.  
  • Make sure people feel supported.  
  • Talk about how a person is feeling, and always have a list of in-person or online support resources available for anyone that needs a little extra emotional support. 
  • Hone your abilities to pick up on emotional cues. 

You Have the Ingredients. Now Create a Five-Star Experience.

Providing exceptional person-centered care is in many ways like providing an exceptional dining experience. Make the person feel that you’ve handcrafted an experience specifically suited to their unique tastes and needs. The points we’ve discussed in this article center on doing just that. And now that you know the core concepts of person-centered care, start using them for your next task involving another person. See if you notice a difference in the outcome, and if possible, which concept yielded better results and which didn’t. This will help you identify gaps and opportunities to adapt and deliver more positive outcomes moving forward.

Related Content:

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500+ courses. RN-developed. Blended online/in-service training options. Tailored to your state’s complete requirements.

HCP’s Care Intelligence Platform offers RN-developed training, satisfaction surveys, and reputation management tools to help you become the best employer and provider in your area—and make sure everyone knows about it.

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