Person-Centered Care: What It Is, and Why You Should Insist on It

Expert review by 
Written by 
Updated June 5, 2023
Key Takeaways

Person-centered care looks beyond safety and integrates your values, preferences, and goals into the care your receive. It creates a partnership between you and your caregiver to address your physical, mental, spiritual, and social health needs.

At CareScout we’re all about person-centered care. In fact, we believe it’s the future of aging care. So what is it, exactly?

Simply put, person-centered care is care that honors who you are, what you want to do, and how you want to do it.

Behind those few words is a whole lot more. All good, by the way, and we’ll get to that. First, let’s just say that person-centered care couldn’t be further from the days of “doctor’s orders”. You know, when patients were told what to do and how they should do it. And those orders — like a prescription or a rehab program — were based on what might work for the average person with a particular problem. One-size-fits-all.

Well, the heck with that.

Care that lets you age your way

Person-centered care recognizes the simple truth that there is no average person. Everyone is different. Each of us has different motivations, different likes and dislikes. Each of us has a unique set of values and beliefs that affect how we engage with the world and other people, including our care and caregivers.

This may be particularly true for older adults, who have been at the living game a long time and tend to know what they want and how they want it.

Person-centered care recognizes this and runs with it. Care, it says, works best when it meets us where we are. In person-centered care, a plan of care is not one-size-fits-all. It’s one-size-fits-one. It honors your goals and preferences and the values you hold dear. Because those goals and preferences evolve as you age and your priorities change, person-centered care evolves right along with you. As it does, the care you receive continues to support your ability to do what you love, even if in a modified way.

Because yes, person-centered care is about the big things, like your safety and your health. But it’s also about the little things, like eating the food you love, wearing the clothes you feel good in, or playing your favorite games. It’s about the power that comes from having choices. It’s about the little things that may also be big things, such as a lifelong hobby, a decades-old passion for cooking, or that daily swim you can’t do without. If it’s meaningful to you, it has a place in person-centered care.

Care for your body and soul

Person-centered care addresses not just your physical health but also your mental, social, and spiritual health. A care plan might include a weekly visit from a hairdresser, for example, because keeping your hair looking great helps you feel your best. It could include a “prayer prescription”, a regular time set aside for meditation and contemplation. Or how about a steady stream of crossword puzzles to let your brain out to play? If it supports your well-being, chances are it can be part of the plan.

This is another important difference in person-centered care: You have a say in your care. To your provider you’re a partner and you have a voice. You create your plan of care together and success is measured by how you feel about your care. You develop a trusting relationship based on mutual respect.

Person-centered care encourages care relationships built on trust. For all our wonderful differences, there are some things we humans all have in common. We want to be seen. We want to be heard.  And we need to be able to trust the people we let into our lives, including our caregivers.

Person-centered care checks all the boxes. It’s like a hug for your health.

Care in which quality really means something

Not only does person-centered care honor all of you, it does something equally important. It inspires a higher level of quality care that is sorely needed, now more than ever.

Let’s face it: Our aging care system is broken. It’s fragmented and intimidating, and it’s just not fair that people seeking care have little choice but to slog through the experience and hope for the best. We live in a world where quality ratings for providers can’t be trusted, where “quality” score really means “safety” score and not much more. Quality care isn’t simply about keeping someone safe and alive. It’s about helping them live.

To help care seekers find aging care providers committed to person-centered care, CareScout is setting clear criteria for person-centered quality care. No one else has done this, by the way. We’re the first. In addition to other quality measures, we conduct surveys to hear directly from care recipients how they feel about their care. We ask care recipients not just how they’re doing physically or whether they feel safe, but also whether they feel respected and listened to, are they feeling happy? Only providers who maintain high scores on these surveys and other measures stay in our CareScout Quality Network.

Care that actually helps you feel better

The other reason CareScout is leading the charge for person-centered care? It works. Studies have shown that people who receive person-centered care are more satisfied with their care, have better health outcomes, and are less likely to experience health crises. They experience a sense of empowerment and independence, all of which can have a positive impact on their overall quality of life.   

So compelling is the collective evidence that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) sees person-centered care as key to its new National Quality Initiative, which seeks to create a smoother care journey across a person’s lifetime.

That’s good news going forward, because life’s too short for aging care to be anything less than stellar. Insist on person-centered care. For all the reasons we’ve shared—and more—at CareScout we think it’s high time person-centered care took center stage, where you are the star of the show.

Looking for quality care near you?

Every provider in the CareScout Quality Network has met rigorous quality standards and is committed to person-centered care. Search our network to find a provider who meets your needs.

Expert reviewed by

Philip Gillich, MPH

Philip has more than 20 years of experience working with the provider community as well as payors. He is regarded as an industry authority with substantial credentials on best practices to advance value-based care, align best practices for population health, and accelerate person-centered care. H...

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Written by

Rob Kinslow

Rob Kinslow

Rob Kinslow is a health and medical writer whose work has spanned the healthcare continuum — from primary, hospital, and home care to long-term care and senior living.

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