This is about ensuring that the person (with dementia) is the main focus of our attention and not the dementia. It is a term used when describing good dementia care and also best practice in advocacy. It recognises a person's individuality, their personal history and personality. It seeks to understand the world from the individual's perspective. When a person behaves in a way that is difficult, aggressive or inappropriate it is the role of others to try to understand why the person is behaving in that way, especially if they are unable to explain this themselves. Knowing their past history, relationships and interests or trying to see the world from their perspective can often help with this. Person-centred also means focusing on the best in someone, their strengths rather than their difficulties, responding to their feelings even when we do not understand their behaviour.
As our understanding and awareness of dementia has progressed we encourage a relationship-centred approach to the care of people with dementia. The emphasis here is to acknowledge the relationships that the individual has with other people, identifying the 'circle of care' that provides support which may be from family, friends, professionals. This approach also acknowledges who the individual considers to be important to them.
More recent debate is around recognising that the person with dementia is part of a wider community and looks at the role of being a citizen and maintaining their role and value to society. This requires a huge change in mindset which for many years has seen dementia as the end of roles and responsibilities and a life of dependency on others.
Significant changes are taking place in the support and care of people with dementia. Listening to what people with dementia want and involving them in new initiatives is changing attitudes from dying with dementia to living with dementia. There are some innovative examples of good practice and creative projects which seek to enhance the quality of life for people living with dementia on our living with dementia page.