The importance of person-centred practice in dementia care

I have worked in the care home environment since qualifying as a nurse, and have now been a dementia care nurse for more than two years.

Initially, I was reluctant to undertake dementia nursing due because of limited clinical experience in this area. But it is an area of nursing I love, and now I would not consider giving it up.

The traditional emphasis on meeting the physical needs of people living with dementia has evolved, and it is now recommended practice to focus on meeting psychological, social and spiritual care needs too.

This holistic and person-centred care is flourishing in my clinical practice, and one of the key ways of achieving this is getting to know the people living with dementia who are in our care.

Collecting a life history from residents, or their family members, is vital in providing us with a greater understanding of who the person is, and how we can give not only good care, but a good quality of life.

Coming into a new environment can be very difficult for a person with dementia and for their loved ones too. In the care home, we use life story work to get a picture of the person and the things they used to do, an approach we have found highly beneficial for getting to know residents. Key workers are assigned to residents to help make this approach work.

Residents love to look at old photographs and talk about the past, and we value the importance of reminiscence at the home. We have themed walls to reflect the local area, with paintings of shops and town landmarks to encourage a feeling of familiarity.

A care home environment can be quite distressing because it is not the resident's own home, but we encourage individuals and families to make rooms as homely as possible by bringing in items such as photographs, or a quilt or chair.

We strive to make the environment as homely as possible through the appropriate use of décor; we have a 1950s-themed reminiscence lounge for residents and their families, and have daily designated activities for residents. One of the most popular is music therapy. Residents love listening to their favourite music – it encourages them to sing, and also has a calming effect. Gaining knowledge of individuals' likes and preferences is vital in ensuring we meet their needs.

The most important thing we must take from caring for people with dementia is that even though the person has been diagnosed with the condition, they are still an individual.

They may be in a care home, but we do everything we can to enable them to live well and have a positive experience. Through collaboration with the individual, their family, and the multiprofessional team, we enhance their quality of life to the best of our ability.

About the author

Shauna RooneyShauna Rooney is a staff nurse at Four Seasons Health Care and winner of the infection prevention award at the 2015 Nursing Standard Awards.

Photo gallery: Infection Prevention Award winner Shauna Rooney
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