1. Help the person manage their own care
When someone needs your help, make sure they have input. Listen to their preferences. Empower them to be and feel involved with your care team. Make them full partners in their own care. Put the person in the center, with all other players (family, clinicians, caregivers, teachers, administrators, therapists, etc.) comprising a customized circle of support.
Show the person that their individual needs, interests, passions, likes, and dreams are always the core focus of every effort. Let them know that to the best of your ability, you will minimize what they don’t like and maximize what they do like.
2. Ask the person about their preferences
Offer choices and let the person know you aim to meet their needs. For example, if they don’t like to shower in the morning, can you allow them to choose the time of day that feels best for them? If you can offer personalized options and flexibility, you can often avoid unnecessary altercations.
3. Get to know the person
- What’s their background?
- What are their interests?
- What are they good at?
- What makes them feel supported?
- What makes them feel happy?
- What makes them feel scared?
To find this out, talk to the person. Greet them by name in a friendly tone. Use supportive body language. Be calm and rational, and treat them like they’re calm and rational — even if they’re being anything but. Build their trust. Also talk to others. Ask your colleagues, other professionals, the person’s family, etc.
4. Look for the causes of behaviors
Behavior is a form of communication. If a person in your care exhibits difficult behavior, seek to understand the function of the behavior. What you might view as a frustrating behavior may actually be a coping mechanism attempt. If your response is understanding and individualized, you can help the person replace problem behavior with positive, productive behavior.
5. Do tasks WITH the person
Minimize doing things FOR them. Maximize their abilities. Focus on success, de-emphasize errors, and provide support where needed. To do that, be strengths-based.
Working hand in hand with person centredness is being abilities-focused and strength-based. Instead of focusing on deficits and disabilities, look for the person’s potential and recognize what they CAN do with your belief in them and your support of their abilities. Help them feel purpose, skill, accomplishment, and self-respect — and this will improve how they feel and act toward you.
6. Offer comfort
With your person-centered responses, you can make something better and be part of the solution. Ways to offer comfort and reassurance include giving the person a pat on the back, a hand on the shoulder, a wink, a thumbs-up, or just being present with the person in a difficult moment.
Honor things the person likes. Sing along with them to their favorite song. And let them know when they’re doing a good job. As they achieve benchmarks — even small steps toward their ultimate goals — celebrate. People are more likely to stick with something when they feel that they’re supported and rewarded for their hard work. Be prepared for small steps backward or unanticipated barriers, but work through them and keep moving forward.
8. Avoid physical intervention
If the person you’re working with sometimes poses a physical danger to self or others, there may be times when you need to physically intervene. However, in many situations, there are ways to minimize the need for any physical intervention — and to reduce the risk of injury to you and the person.
The best way to avoid going hands-on is to avoid the need to restrain in the first place. To do that:
- Be aware of changes in the person’s behavior that can be warning signs of potential escalation
- Focus on proxemics and verbal de-escalation
- Learn how to set limits effectively
- Get training in how to assess risk
- Avoid being drawn into power struggles
- Choose the least-restrictive option possible in every situation
Be sure to debrief after any crisis. This will help you find patterns and triggers, build teamwork with your colleagues, and prevent the situation from happening again. When you debrief, you can also pinpoint specific ways to proactively address the causes of difficult behavior. Debriefing also helps the person foster resilience and develop effective coping skills.
10. Join hands
A person-centered, strength-based approach is about treating people with respect and dignity and working together to improve the person’s quality of life. And, by extension, the quality of your life, your colleagues’ lives, and the lives of the person’s family members.
Throughout your organization, collaborate as a team to adopt a consistent approach. Work to gain buy-in of person-focused care, not only from all staff departments and all organizational leaders, but from clients and their families as well. This allows everyone to take an active role in promoting their own well-being, thereby enhancing the well-being of others.
11. Start immediately
In many environments, you can get your person centered approach off the ground before the person even comes into your care: During the discovery process, prior to admission, during intake, etc. Being person-centered at every step of a person’s journey furthers their inclusion and engagement in their education, care, treatment, recovery, family, community, peer groups, growth, etc.
12. Lead the way
Model these strategies for your colleagues. Help staff shift from a deficit-based mindset to a strength-based mindset. Show them the results you achieve when you focus on a person’s abilities. Teach them how instead of looking at a person as “damaged,” they can see the person as a survivor.