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If Your Senior Loved One Has Idiosyncrasies, “Person Centered Care,” Is Your Best Bet

I was an advocate for “person-centered care,” long before it became part of elder care terminology. “Person centered care” simply means that a community, or another entity, adapts and delivers care or amenities according to the habits of the senior. As the former Admissions Director of a community that catered to residents at the independent, assisted, and intermediate nursing home level, I knew that flexibility was the key to keeping the place full. Most importantly, it kept the residents happy.

The organization that I represented had not changed much aesthetically or administratively since it was built in the early 1950’s. Consequently, I broke just about every rule in the book (often to the dismay of the religious order that had once reigned there in the past) in order to keep the place filled. At one point, I admitted a cheerful, boisterous, resident who asked me if he could bring his extremely loud, talkative, Cockatiel to live with him when he moved in. I said, “of course,” even though the community had a strict no pets policy. The bird absolutely delighted the residents and I often saw a group of them congregating in the owner’s room before dinner. Another resident’s daughter told me that her Father was a sports fanatic and that he often watched as many as six different events at the same time. Bear in mind, we are talking about events that occurred 15 years ago, and the building was not yet cable friendly. I said, “That’s no problem, we’ll just install a satellite dish outside his window.” You can imagine how many eyebrows I raised when the satellite dish company pulled up and started to hammer away.There was also a long-term resident who confided to me that she had an illness that would eventually cause her to need a feeding tube. She said that above all, she wanted to live out her final days at the community rather than be moved to a nursing home where they could accommodate her needs. I was very touched by her request. I approached the Administrator and asked if there was something we could do for her. He was able to petition the State on a one time basis to allow the feeding tube, and her request was granted! Thankfully, times have changed since then. As a senior living advisor, I have learned that some but not all of the nursing homes are delivering “person-centered care.”

Real Life Story
My client was a woman aged 70, and her daughter. This woman was quite a bit younger than my typical client. She had been living independently in a senior living community. One day, she began falling and was hardly able to perform any activities of daily living, meaning bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, walking, and eating on her own. The daughter’s solution to the problem, like many of my clients, was to hire a full time caregiver on a 24 hour basis. Eventually, the cost of paying the rent at the community and the full time caregiver became prohibitive. After interviewing my client, I found out that she never attended any of the meals at the community. She ate only in her room. She had not had a full bath in over two years, and only wanted a sponge bath. The caregiver was putting her into bed at 4 P.M. every day and serving her dinner in bed. In addition, she slept late every morning. She ate her meals according to her own schedule. She requested that she not be asked to attend any activities.

Most nursing homes would not be able to accommodate these sorts of habits. Yet, I knew of a community that was not far from the daughter and flexible enough to meet all of her needs. There are not many.

For all of your senior living needs, please call Andrea Donovan at Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advisors.