Very often in aged care, staff will find themselves ticking off a list of tasks they have to perform for each resident.

The list may include showering the resident, helping them dress, cleaning their teeth, taking them to the toilet, helping them take their medication, and any number of other duties.

The number of tasks required for each resident can be many, and very often the focus of carers and nurses becomes simply making sure they have performed all their necessary duties.

With this in mind, we can see how some staff might be easily overwhelmed by the number of tasks they have to complete in a day, and they may – unintentionally – fail to develop a deeper appreciation of the resident, who they are, the life they have lived, and what brings them into aged care.

Let’s not forget about the resident

It’s understandable that many aged care staff develop a task-centred focus.

Residents are often frail and vulnerable – it is absolutely imperative that they are well cared for, and that all their needs are seen to and daily tasks performed.

Every task is important.

Focussing on tasks is often how staff have been trained to perform their aged care duties.

Job descriptions are also often entirely task focussed.

But when focussing simply on tasks, some staff  may be overlooking one crucial aspect of their work: they may not be taking into account the individuality of the person in their care and their story.

They may not understand the person’s history – the resident may have just come into care, and may be unsettled and require some reassurance?

The carer may not understand the resident’s culture – do they like to eat later in the evening? Or are they having trouble communicating?

They may not understand the resident’s personality – do they like you to linger and chat, or perform your duties without a minimum of conversation?

Carers may not even focus on how the residents themselves wish to be cared for.

Treating residents with dignity and respect, and involving them in decisions about their care is known as ‘person-centred care’.

The new aged care quality standards, which come into effect on 1 July 2019, will mean that a more person-centred approach will be taken to aged care.

What is person-centred care?

According to the Federal Government’s Carer Gateway, person-centred care is care that is focussed on the needs of the person being cared for.

Person-centred care “sees doctors, nurses and health services treating people the way they want to be treated.

“It allows people to make choices about the type of health services and care they access, and how and when it is delivered.

“With person-centred care, each person is treated as a complete human being with their own life story, values, culture, interests and beliefs.

“Support from others is tailored to meet the person’s individual situation, unique needs and goals.”

What are the advantages of person-centred care?

Person-centred care should improve an aged care residents experience of the care they receive. It should allow care recipients to have a more active role in the care they receive.

Person-centred care can also help carers gain greater satisfaction from the work they do, because they feel more connected to the resident, are able to provide better care, and can also help make the resident happier.

Having the resident at the centre of care has been shown to improve clinical outcomes.

Person-centred care can also be more cost effective. If residents are fully informed about the care they receive, they often choose less invasive and lower-cost treatments.

Person-centred care: an example

In her video, ‘Task-oriented versus person-centred care’, Teepa Snow speaks with a cleaner, Janice, at a dementia care home.

Teepa firstly asks Janice to describe how she performs her role. The cleaner lists the cleaning tasks she has to perform, “I clean the floors, I dust…”

Teepa then asks Janice how she would feel if someone arrived at her front door at home, came in, and started cleaning her house without asking her first. Janice laughed, and said, “That wouldn’t work.”

Teepa said the dementia care home did not asked Janice to ask for resident’s permission before entering their room, and so it was understandable that Janice didn’t do so.

But the two agreed that, just as Janice wouldn’t want someone coming into her home, at least some residents might also feel they don’t want someone coming into their room – which of course is their home.

“Just as you wouldn’t want someone coming into your house, I’m suspecting that at least we have some people in the build that aren’t really excited to have you come in. And there are other people who would love to have you in there,” said Teepa.

The two agreed that Janice should knock and gaining permission before entering each resident’s room.

By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and taking a person-centred approach, you can gain a deeper understanding of how that person might be feeling, and are able to treat them with greater dignity, ultimately providing better care.

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