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What is person-centred care?

David Lackenby, Service Lead at Briarwood one of our 24-hour specialist older adult services, shares his thoughts on person-centred care and explains what it means to him:

Depending where you look, there are several definitions of what person-centered care is. Repeated are words such as dignity, respect and compassion. Kindness and uniqueness are often cited in journals and other healthcare media.

These words to me do not describe person-centred care, they are my approach to every human being I meet, regardless of their status.

When a person comes to us in need of care, they bring with them a range of labels – descriptions of a diagnosis which has been given to them by other professionals. We are trained to place people into models of care, within frameworks which research has informed us is best practice.

For example, “Mary X has a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, can become agitated and angry at others, some underlying PD traits. A Care Process Model should be adopted” etc.

These labels, or ‘onion layers’ as I call them, camouflage the person underneath, directing and influencing us in our immediate approach towards them. This can result in unjustified assumptions being made about the person.

When I look at a person, I see a human being, not a medical diagnosis or a list of issues to engage with, but a person.

Compassion, dignity, and respect are paramount and are the first things I think of when engaging with a new resident. I do not need a model or description of what person-centred care is to demonstrate these things.

I always look beyond the illness at the person first. I ask myself: how are they feeling? What is going through their minds? Are they anxious, fearful, sad, or happy? What do they want or expect of me?

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for models, frameworks, and diagnosis. However, these are labels that have been attached before I even meet the person.

Once I get to know the person, build up their trust and understand their issues, then I can decide upon what, if any, models or approaches I need to use.

Models do direct me to best practice, but person-centred care goes beyond these things.

At work I have a motto, “where the resident goes, we go”.  In reality this could mean that when a person is experiencing mental ill-health or unwell physically, we follow them in their journey in order to provide support and care with respect and dignity.

If one of our people we care for requires care on the floor of their bedroom, we follow. If a person becomes elated and requires more space, we follow.

I always try to treat people the way I would like to be treated. I would expect honesty, engagement, space if needed, company, to be listened to and acknowledged. I am the best person to inform others of my needs. I expect others to take my feelings on board and take them seriously, not just document or add them to nursing support plans where the essence can be lost. These are the elements that would help me in my recovery.

So, to me, person-centred care is about getting to know the core aspects of a person – the person behind the illness, that person’s life experiences. It is about acknowledging that they are more than a label that has been placed upon them’.

How do we provide person-centred care in our services?

At Everyturn Mental Health, we take the time to truly get to know the people we support. As David has demonstrated, this allows us to understand people better, to understand their life experiences and their needs.

The better we understand people, the better equipped we are to meet their needs and offer them the very best kind of support.

We also take a person-centred approach to our talking therapies. Hear from Lisa Booth, Everyturn Mental Health Regional Lead for the North, as she explains what person-centred care means to her and how our therapists take a person-centred approach.

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