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Throwing Out the Cookie Cutter: Understanding and Embracing Person-Centered Care

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A curious term is increasingly being used in the intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) community. It’s person-centered care. I say it’s curious because it naturally prompts the question, “hasn’t care always been centered on the person?” The answer to that question is “well, not exactly.” Allow me to explain.

IDD programs are, without a doubt, intended to help persons thrive. In that sense, all IDD services are person-centered. Historically, however, services and care were provided to people with disabilities in cookie-cutter fashion. The care-team not only identified the “problems” that needed to be addressed but chose the manner in which services would be provided. People with disabilities learned what other people thought was important for them to learn, they participated in group outings that didn’t take their personal interests into account, and they weren’t consulted about what was important to them.

As a technologist who previously spent more than 20 years working with non-profits in the IDD community, I have a deep appreciation for planning and processes which are tracked in an electronic health record (EHR). Netsmart’s myEvolv EHR has been designed to facilitate person-centered planning and manages all aspects of service delivery in a person-centered planning process. It plays a key role in keeping all parties on track and focused on the individual’s goals.

Person-centered plans reflect the individual’s:

  • Likes and interests
  • Dislikes and fears
  • Strengths
  • Desire to include others in plan (family and friends)

Person-centered plans are created to be “living documents”, with reoccurring discussions, reviews and updates incorporated as needed. Clinical speak is replaced with person-centered and easily understood language, both the person and their team feel included in the process and the individual is treated as much more than a recipient of information or pre-determined tasks.

By empowering people with IDD, they are more engaged in their daily activities, their community and society in general. After all, isn’t the goal for everyone to live their life to its fullest potential, regardless of disability labels? I’m proud to be part of an effort to throw out the cookie cutter and embrace person-centered care.