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Person-Directed Care: Redefining Elder Care

If you have been following these blog posts, you will know that the concept of person-directed care is central to our mission at Homewatch CareGivers of Crystal Lake. As defined by the Eden Alternative© person-directed care is, “an approach that frames care through the eyes of the person receiving that care. [Emphasizing] that all decisions belong in the hands of the person receiving care, or, at the very least, in the hands of those closest to [them].”[1] This framework of care may seem very simple, and in some ways it is, but when applied holistically it has the power to radically transform every part of the care relationship. The implications of the person-directed model of care can be best understood when contrasted with the “traditional” or medical model of care. The “traditional” or medical model views elder care as primarily addressing the medical concerns of a patient. It encourages care givers to view themselves as primarily performing the function of a medical agent, and focuses on what is “wrong” with an individual and approaches an elder with the assumptions that they, “[have] reached a period of life marked primarily by decline, [have] little to offer their community, [and have] limited options in terms of continued growth and development.”[2] As I’m sure is apparent, this model, though medically effective, can often lead to elders feeling like a burden, and lacking basic levels of human connection. A person-directed model, however, encourages care givers to view their role as a partnership where the elder is the one who directs their own care and has a positive view of ageing. Person-directed care sees elders as having, “reached a period of life marked by its own unique and valuable developmental milestones, [as having] unique gifts to offer others, [and that elders] can continue to grow as [people] by building on strengths and current abilities.”[3] These shifts in mentality are significant on their own, but what they represent is a shift in view as to how an in-home care partnership operates withing the life of an elder. Within a person-directed model the primary concerns are the overall wellbeing of an individual which starts with emotional and spiritual care and then moves to how to care for them physically.

The bulk of suffering faced by most elders in America are not dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or general frailty (though these are major concerns) but are what the Eden Alternative© calls the “plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.”[4] These plagues are found in the spirit and not the body and therefore are ignored by most “traditional” care giving models. However, we at Homewatch CareGivers of Crystal Lake believe our job is to partner in care with elders to address all their human needs, physical, emotional, and spiritual, and that is the heart of what makes our person-directed model of care different. Additionally, not only does person-directed care lead to better care for the client, but also creates more meaning for the caregiver, because instead of approaching care as one-directional, it becomes a relationship where elders and caregivers are allowed to grow with one another. Homewatch CareGivers of Crystal Lake is committed to the principles of person-directed care because we see it as the most loving, fruitful, and best type of home care for everyone from an elder and their family to the caregiver.


[1] Eden at Home: Care Partner's Workbook. Rochester, NY: Eden Alternative, 2011. pp. 6

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. pp. 13.

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