Person Centred Planning with older adults
Getting older comes with a very frightening and daunting set of challenges. However, as a society, we tend to overlook the challenges faced by the individual (the person who is living through the getting older part), and focus on the issues related to those around them. These are the issues we have both as individuals (now I need to take care of them too) and as a society (how much will it now cost to care for this person who can no longer contribute).
Sadly, this is not an approach we can change in our lifetime. However, that should by no means mean we shouldn’t do our best to facilitate a shift, as much as is in our power.
One of the first steps in empowering and enabling seniors to continue living their best lives is person-centered planning.
What is person-centered planning?
Person-centered planning was developed back in the 1980s by a small group of people aiming to enable individuals to move out of specially segregated institutions, like hospitals and schools, and into mainstream life and society. It is a proponent of inclusion and inclusivity, and supports individuals who are usually marginalized to help get them more involved in their own communities.
It’s opposed to the traditional approach to care planning, which takes all the power and decision-making away from the individual. While the traditional approach assesses their needs and prescribes them a way of life with very little or no involvement on the individual’s part, the person-centered approach looks to empower the individual and return the power into their hands.
Change on an institutional level
Unless you’re employed at a position of power and can directly influence policies related to this issue, what you as an individual can do to set off institutional change is advocating, voting, and campaigning for change. However, as these kinds of issues remain shrouded by more widely appealing social issues, it will take some time before person-centered care becomes the primary focus of our political and social life.
Change on a micro level
What you can change is your own worldview and the way you treat the seniors in your own life. Let’s explore some of the ways you can make person-centered care more of a reality:
Talk to your parent about care
Most children of older adults (who are adults themselves) make the same mistake – they quickly write off their parents as too old to make decisions, or too irrational to make the right ones. So, they take over for them, in their best interest, and for their own good.
Instead of marching into your parents’ life and bossing them around, do the exact opposite: talk to them about the care they want to get. And don’t ignore their wishes when you don’t agree with them.
This is where it’s especially important to take into consideration your parents’ interests and passions of prior years. Keep in mind that although they may have changed a lot, your parent is still a person with their unique preferences, tastes, and interests.
Hence, they’ll thrive if their care settings are able to support their individuality and encourage them to cultivate their passions. They won’t only feel more comfortable and happier with this kind of a set-up, but it will also help them develop and utilize their gifts and strengths, ultimately contributing to a sense of fulfillment.
Accept that the decisions are not yours to make
It can be very difficult to reach an understanding with an aging parent about how to treat a disease or how to arrange their living situation.
While you may honestly have their best interest at heart, imagine you get really ill, for example, and suffer from pneumonia. You clearly need care. And instead of having any power over what you eat, where you live, and what kind of medicine you are treated with, you are treated as a non-entity who has zero power, and someone else starts pulling all the strings in your life.
Would you feel all right with that?
The same goes for your parents: even if they are ill and old, they have the right to make decisions. And even if you don’t agree, you need to accept them. If your parents refuse treatment and wish to live out their lives at home, even if that means only a couple of months, you need to respect that.
Advocate for them
At the doctor’s office, in hospitals, with the home care nurse. Whenever your parent is in an institutional situation, go with them. Not to speak for them, but to remind the staff to ask for their opinions on the way they want to be treated and what kind of treatment they want to be exposed to.
Don’t assume the speaker’s role: you are there to enable your parent’s voice to be heard, not be their mouthpiece.
The 5 accomplishments to aim for
With any person-centered care planning for older adults, you are looking to achieve the following five accomplishments. These are the hallmarks of a good life, no matter the background, no matter the disability, and no matter the challenge, and here is how we can play our part to help achieve them:
- Autonomy: Understanding the needs and creating conditions for each unique individual to support their growth, help them develop their autonomy, and enable them to exercise it
- Competency: Helping individuals develop their signature strengths and encouraging them to cultivate, as well as utilize, their distinctive gifts
- Community presence: Encouraging the valued experience of sharing ordinary spaces with the rest of the community. This entails helping individuals continuously participate in community activities and rituals, thus helping cultivate a sense of belonging.
- Valued social roles: Helping individuals fulfill their valued social role as citizens by enabling them to contribute to the community and develop their capacity to bring their distinctive gifts to other people
- Community participation: By actively and intentionally participating in community life, individuals can deepen their sense of belonging and experience community life in a skillful and satifying way. Our job is to cultivate an inclusive community, encourage them to participate, and help create opportunities for them to do so.
If you’re looking for more ways to get involved in person-centered care advocacy, or would like to educate yourself further, pick up a copy of our book, A Little Book About Person Centred Planning.
You can also read our other book, Person Centred Planning Together, which will give you further insight into the principles we stand behind.
Remember to consider the individual, especially the marginalized and silenced individual whose voice cannot be heard as loudly as the voices of the mainstream, and do your best to make them heard, when you can and wherever you can. Only by making our society truly inclusive can we hope to enable everyone to live their lives to the fullest.
Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/glpYh1cWf0o