We talk a lot about our desire to provide "person-centered care." After all, it is an integral component of Episcopal Retirement Homes' mission statement. So naturally we often get asked about it. What is person-centered care? How does it differ from care elsewhere?
A different way of providing assisted living in Cincinnati.
Maintaining an aim of "person-centeredness" means offering freedom, choice and purpose to those for whom, and with whom, we work. This plays out in our approach to interacting with our residents and the respect with which our staffers treat residents' families, friends, and each other.
We believe that, for our residents to be afforded the dignity they should retain when receiving care, we must provide the loving support they need to keep their freedom and to make their own choices. In essence, we need to be proactive and immediately available when called upon, but otherwise we need to be the caring senior service in the background.
We are not the center of our residents' lives— they are the center of ours.
We want to serve as model that other providers look to, consistent with two more of our core values: transparency and ministry. Ministering effectively to our residents, their families and even to other providers in the community means that we are open in all our actions and our words.
Person-centered care means putting others' needs before our own.
This isn't always easy to do.
Although most of our residents interact with one another and are quite happy, not everyone is happy all the time. Take the case of Mrs. X (this being a public blog, we will speak in general terms and change her name to protect confidentiality).
Mrs. X has lived in one of our communities for the past five years. In that time, she has preferred to keep primarily to herself, which we believe she is perfectly within her rights to do. No one should ever be made to feel obligated to socialize; some people are natural homebodies.
Consequently, Mrs. X has not sought out or developed many friendships with other residents.
She has, however, developed several close connections with members of our transportation staff, as she uses the service quite frequently on her way to appointments, shopping, or other errands. One of our drivers, Frank Uehlin, has always felt a special fondness for her.
Over many one-on-one conversations with Mrs. X during drives, he has gotten to know her verbal cues— he can tell when she feels a little down.
One Tuesday morning, driving Mrs. X back to her residence, Frank noticed that she was only responding with one-word answers. She seemed distant and sad— although she had always seemed a touch pessimistic, this day seemed worse for her than usual. He considers Mrs. X a friend; he was naturally concerned for her and wanted to help in any way he could.
Sometimes a simple gesture is all that is needed.
Frank's respect for Mrs. X's privacy kept him from asking or prying into the matter. But all day long, Frank wondered why Mrs. X seemed so sad. He began to think of ways he could make her day better.
To and from Mrs. X's appointments, they often passed a local ice cream parlor. Frank thought about this. At the end of his shift that day, he drove over to buy Mrs. X a sundae. It was a simple gesture, and heartfelt. He hoped it would bring a smile to her face.
It certainly did. When Frank got back to the community and she answered her door to see him standing there, sundae in hand, her smile was irreplaceably precious. And that's what person-centered care is all about. Frank made sure that, even with so small a gesture, Mrs. X knows she is noticed and appreciated. She knows that someone thinks she is special and will do whatever is necessary to help her, even if helping means just making her smile.
There are many Franks at ERH.
We pride ourselves on taking the extra initiative to empathize with our residents and provide for their every need. Assisted living isn't always about helping our resident with daily tasks or providing for their basic medical needs — often it is about providing an emotional, social, or spiritual support.
That's what a person-centered ministry does; it addresses a person's comprehensive care needs, in an unobtrusive way.
We are happy to be a leader among Cincinnati retirement communities and assisted living providers. We believe that every senior deserves caring service and we intend to provide just that for a long time to come. If you and your loved one are in need of additional support in retirement, we hope you will consider visiting one of our communities, so that you can see for yourself what a difference person-centered care can make.