Knowing how to care for your aging loved one is difficult. Is it better for them to have a regimented routine? Or would it be better to let them (and help them) make decisions that are right for them?
The answer may be: It depends. We prefer and advocate the person-centered care model, which lets the individual set their own course with guidance and support from their care-partner team. Of course, there may come a time when decisions must be made on their behalf, but it should align, as best as feasible and practical, to a care plan of their own design.
Let’s get the conversation started by talking about the benefits of two approaches to elder home care: daily routines and person-centered care.
Elder Home Care: Is Routine Best or Should We Use Person-Centered Care?
What works for one person may not work for another. While here at Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC, we prefer the person-centered care model pioneered by our friends at Pioneer Network, we would never advocate our approach as the only way. Care partners must examine what will ultimately be in the best interest of their loved one.
Let’s examine the options.
Why Create a Routine for Elder Home Care?
Creating a routine means that you schedule the same activities at roughly the same time each day. The idea is to create a schedule that will allow them to anticipate and prepare for what’s next. This may ease the stress that can come from the unknowns in life.
You could make a routine that is similar to their current daily activities to make the adjustment easier to handle. A morning routine, for example, could be waking up at the same time each day, followed by taking care of personal hygiene, followed by eating breakfast and taking medication, and then enjoying a cup of coffee with the morning newspaper.
Routines Can Be Helpful to Some
We are creatures of habit. Creating routines around healthy habits can be beneficial to our loved ones and elders in several ways, including:
- Lower stress: A lack of control of one’s life can create a lot of stress. This is especially true of seniors who are living with conditions that affect their cognitive and physical abilities, like Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. They may be anxious about what will happen next or worried when or if their needs will be met. They may fear they are being a burden to their care partners. A routine eases stress by creating a sense of control and independence. The routine will become internalized in time and they won’t have to spend as much time worrying about what is coming next.
- Improved sleep: Many seniors struggle with getting good sleep. A routine helps by creating a consistent sleeping pattern. Studies have shown that well-rested individuals are healthier and better rested with a steady routine. Routines fight against factors that affect their quality of sleep, like a lack of exercise, poor nutrition and stress.
- Healthier eating habits: Planning meals can be crucial to helping our loved ones stay on top of their nutrition. Forgetting to eat or to make the trip to the grocery store are typical problems for elders. Creating a meal plan will help seniors and care partners to stay on track of daily nutrition and dietary needs. Healthier eating also can lead to better sleep and mood.
Why Use a Person-Centered Care Approach for Elder Home Care?
Person-centered care is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We like the emphasis on individuality for just that reason. Just because a routine is good for one person doesn’t mean it is good for everyone. Person-centered care focuses on the individual — their needs, their tastes, and their dignity.
Benefits of Person-Centered Care
Person-centered care is holistic, focusing on one’s creative, intellectual, social, spiritual and physical needs. No one person is the same. Their care plan should be custom made to address their whole self. Decisions in person-centered care are made by our loved ones instead of being forced upon them.
Jackie Pinkowitz, Chair of the CCAL: Advancing Person-Centered Living, and a co-leader of the Dementia Action Alliance and the National Dementia Initiative, said person-centered care includes the following principles from a care recipient’s point of view:
- “I have the right to determine how best to meet my needs.”
- “It must include me, my family and team in decision-making.”
- “My care must be empowering, nurturing and respectful.”
- “My care should optimize my physical and psychosocial well-being.”
- “Nothing about me, without me.”
A Care Plan for Dignity and Respect
We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect — in life and while transitioning from end-of-life to death. One-size-fits-all solutions struggle to offer that dignity and respect. A person-centered approach offers both along with some other benefits, including:
- Putting your loved one first: It’s not about simply getting through the day or getting through the next task. Person-centered care involves focusing on what is important to seniors. What activities do they like to do? Are there ways they nourish their spirituality? What gives them a sense of purpose? Providing experiences that stimulate seniors can help improve mental health and combat depression.
- Provides autonomy: Person-centered care allows seniors to make decisions about their own life. Many elders feel a lack of control as their health declines. Their independence also declines accordingly, as they grow to depend on others for care and support. Allowing them to advocate for their own care returns that autonomy.
- Increases happiness: A care plan that focuses on the specific needs and wants of seniors helps increase their satisfaction with life. Person-centered care helps seniors to meet their goals and provides for their well-being. Happiness and a high level of person-centered care can help add many happy years to a life worth living.
Elder Home Care Decisions are Hard. We Can Help!
We know making decisions about your loved one’s home care (and beyond) can be difficult and overwhelming. If you need help, Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC has over 25 years of experience with all aspects of life-care planning, including Board-certified Patient Advocacy, Medicaid Planning & Asset Protection, Referral Services and #WeAreDementiaStrong. We’re happy to provide referrals and guide the process in a caring and compassionate way.