UB's New Institute for Person-Centered Care Offers Hope for Elderly

Davina Patrick (left) and Rhonda Rotterman (right) are directing a new institute focused on meeting the needs of the elderly.

Published May 29, 2013

It is the fear of everyone who has parents or grandparents who might need special care as they approach old age: What if they are not able to remain active and involved?

“[Person-centered care] differs from standard care of elders in that it does not just focus on illness and medical treatment and decision making.”
Dr. Davina Porock

And as a result of their condition, what if they are not treated with dignity and respect? Person-centered care (PCC) began in response to precisely this situation in nursing homes, as a way to approach residents—particularly those with dementia—who might be disengaged and prone to react with fear or aggression to care-givers.

UB’s Institute for Person-Centered Care, working to further enhance this new method of care-giving through research and scholarship, is the first of its kind in the United States. To do so, it takes a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach, bringing together researchers, educators, health-care providers, and community-based programs to develop new care and services, and share them with the public. The institute began with interactions between UB and the Western New York Alliance for Person-Centered Care, a grassroots collaborative of skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities. Researchers as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia also contribute to the project.

According to Dr. Davina Porock, who directs both the Institute for Person-Centered Care and UB’s Center for Nursing Research, “[Person-centered care] differs from standard care of elders in that it does not just focus on illness and medical treatment and decision making. PCC considers the whole experience of everyday life; retaining a sense of self with meaningful interactions and purpose … Delivering PCC is not only about providing high-quality physical care, but also ensuring that the emotional and psychological needs are met, particularly for the person who is unable to satisfy these needs independently.”

Since this is an emerging field in health care, research is focused on defining and measuring its techniques and outcomes, a task that Porock is excited to lead. She writes, “Since there is little more than anecdotal evidence of outcomes and no strong theoretical understanding of how these techniques work, it is difficult to explain how to apply PCC into practice. Thus our research focuses on these issues. So far we have we have developed questionnaires from resident, staff, and family perspectives to measure dose of PCC –- i.e., how much PCC is actually happening in a long-term care facility. We used standard data collected in all long-term care facilities to determine which resident outcomes might be sensitive to a PCC intervention,” she explains, adding that some of that research was recently presented in a scholarly paper. An upcoming study this summer at two assisted-living facility will further test PCC measures and procedures, with the hope, writes Porock, that this research will “explain the underlying mechanism for the positive outcomes of PCC approaches.”

A university-wide initiative, the Institute for Person-Centered Care is housed in the UB School of Nursing, but partners as well with the Law School, Geography Department., School of Social Work, and all the health science schools, according to Porock. She adds, “We hold our trainings and outreach in the community at various long-term care facilities throughout WNY and in venues such as the Ombudsman’s office on Delaware Ave.” With its partners both inside the university and beyond, the institute looks forward to heightening awareness and refining the techniques and outcomes of person-centered care for all those who need it.