Why Everyone Is Talking About Person-Centered Care

Laurie Renzulli
Updated January 22, 2024
Key Takeaways

Person-centered care isn’t a new concept, but people are talking about it a whole lot more in recent years. There are three main reasons for that: More people want to age in place. Care seeker expectations often aren’t met – and they’re starting to demand more. COVID highlighted the need for trusted home care.

Younger Woman Kissing Older Woman on the Cheek
In late 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Innovation Center announced its new vision for long-term care: “A health system that achieves equitable outcomes through high quality, affordable, person-centered care.”

In 2022, the Moving Forward Nursing Home Quality Coalition echoed this same CMS vision as its number one goal for improving nursing home care. If you Google person-centered care, you’re likely to find a wide range of health organizations talking about it, from the Alzheimer’s Association to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services.

Why all this renewed interest in an approach some experts argue can be traced back to Florence Nightingale?1,2

Person-centered care has been defined as looking beyond safety to integrate a person’s goals, preferences, and values into the care they receive — clearly a good thing. Practicing person-centered care has been shown to improve clinical outcomes and reduce excess costs of care.3 And person-centered care meets people where they are, a distinction consumers can appreciate while helping providers differentiate in a crowded, consumer-driven market.

None of this is new, however. Why is person-centered care such a hot topic now? Here are three possible reasons.

Reason #1: More people want to age in place.

The number of older adults wishing to stay put as they age has risen dramatically in recent years. According to a 2023 survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report, 93% of adults over age 55 if given the choice would prefer to age in place.4

Those numbers will only continue to rise as the older population grows exponentially. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2034, there will be more people over age 65 than under age 18 (77 million versus 76.5 million).5

Who is going to care for all these people? Today, one in five Americans serves as caregiver for a family member, friend, or neighbor.6 Family caregivers choose to care for a loved one so they can remain at home, stay independent, and be treated like family — a standard of care many people don’t trust the long-term care system to deliver.

But family caregivers also report high levels of stress, depression, and physical illness. Rates of burnout are high. As older people begin to outnumber younger people, it’s unlikely there will be enough family caregivers able to help their loved ones age in place.

Enter person-centered care. Providers who offer person-centered care are creating a path to the kind of personalized care family caregivers would provide if only they could. The beauty of this model is that it allows families to remain fully in control: Providers of person-centered care welcome the individual and family as partners in care, engaging them, educating them, and keeping them fully on board with the plan of care, a key to good clinical outcomes.

In other words, person-centered care is being talked about because it can make highly personalized, home-based care scalable as the population ages. Increasingly, families will want and seek out providers known for quality, person-centered care. It can become a great way to differentiate your business and get more people knocking on your door.

Reason #2: Too often, care seeker expectations aren’t being met.

It’s widely acknowledged that long-term care outcomes are often suboptimal. Readmission rates are too high. Depression rates are too high. Costs are too high.

Behind the hard numbers we can see are other outcomes we can’t see—but that care recipients and their families can feel. Confusion. Disconnectedness with their provider-caregivers. Not feeling in control. Disappointment. A common refrain on client satisfaction forms is some version of, “It wasn’t what I expected.” Too often, care seekers are not happy with their choices.

Person-centered care addresses a key reason why this may be so: The current long-term care is not structured to address all of a person’s needs, which include not just physical but emotional health. Quality measures are weighted toward safety rather than overall well-being.

Certainly reducing risk of falls, infections, and readmissions is essential to well-being. But so are the “softer” measures — feeling connected to one’s caregivers, experiencing less anxiety, and the comfort that comes from having one’s personal preferences honored.

Those softer measures distinguish person-centered care from typical long-term care. A person-centered care climate encompasses physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. Addressing all those needs helps dignify the aging care experience and can help providers meet — and even exceed — care seekers’ expectations.

Person-centered care also emphasizes ongoing assessment of both hard and soft measures to provide a more useful standard for measuring quality so that providers can continue to meet those expectations. These measures are gleaned directly from clients and caregivers through surveys.

Does the care recipient feel valued, respected, and listened to? Have they been able to get to know the staff who care for them? Do caregivers feel their employers equip them with the tools and time to deliver on the promise of person-centered care?

In today’s system, it can be difficult to tell why one long-term care provider may be better than another. Providers committed to person-centered care and whose employees receive research-based training in person-centered principles create a dividing line, an understandable way to tell why one provider might be preferred over another.

So not only can practicing person-centered care drive more people to your door, it can help increase client satisfaction to encourage repeat business.

Reason #3: COVID highlighted the need to find trusted home care options.

The COVID-19 pandemic created greater demand for care in the home. Reports of nursing home outbreaks kept older adults away, and many care seekers who might have joined an assisted living community opted to remain in their homes. More people needing long-term care were aging in place and in some cases needing higher levels of care.

This put an even brighter spotlight on home care. Suddenly, more families, especially those living many miles from their loved ones and trying to manage the COVID situation from afar, were wondering: Who’s coming into the home to take care of Mom or Dad? How do we know they’ll meet our expectations?

An intentionally designed network of quality, person-centered care providers—such as the CareScout Quality Network — offers a way for these families to know what they’re getting. Any provider can say they offer person-centered care. However, if the provider is part of a network where continued quality assessment and measurement is performed and staff training in person-centered principles is offered (with CareScout, it’s included with our service), families can be reassured that there is substance behind the claim of person-centered care.

A person-centered care provider network points people toward those providers who deserve to stand out. It can help professional referral sources such as community physicians and nurses build curated lists of preferred home care providers.

This is critical given the growing demand for home care that has been occurring since COVID. Unlike nursing centers and home health care, home care does not have official quality standards. A network based on person-centered care helps home care providers spotlight their quality nevertheless, and continue to shine.

The future of long-term care is bright.

Person-centered care is being talked about in long-term care because at its best, it can deliver on key drivers: improving clinical outcomes and reducing costs while meeting consumer expectations.

The sooner providers embrace person-centered care and commit to realizing its full potential, the sooner it will become easier to offer the kind of care that keeps clients satisfied. Then we’ll have something else to talk about—a long-term care system that supports an aging journey that is dignified, connected, and fulfilling.

Talk to Us about Person-Centered Care

Stand out to more care seekers. Learn about becoming a provider in the CareScout Quality Network.

[1] Lauver DR, Ward SE, Heidrich SM, Keller ML, Bowers BJ, Brennan PF, Kirchhoff KT, Wells TJ. Patient-centered interventions. Res Nurs Health. 2002 Aug;25(4):246-55. doi: 10.1002/nur.10044. PMID: 12124719.

[2] Morgan S, Yoder LH. A Concept Analysis of Person-Centered Care. Journal of Holistic Nursing. 2012;30(1):6-15. doi:10.1177/0898010111412189

[3] CareScout. (2023). Person-centered care: redefining quality for the new age of aging.

[4] Ratnayake M; LPCMH; ATR; NCC;1; Lukas S, Brathwaite S, Neave J, Henry H; BS-c;5. Aging in Place: Are We Prepared? Dela J Public Health. 2022 Aug 31;8(3):28-31. doi: 10.32481/djph.2022.08.007. PMID: 36177171; PMCID: PMC9495472.

[5] U.S. Census Bureau. Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History. Revised Oct. 8, 2019.

[6] AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020.

Laurie Renzulli

Laurie RenzulliMBA

Laurie is a health care business development executive with a passion for identifying top quality providers and helping them differentiate in a complex post-acute market. She has helped businesses grow in both the ind

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