Dedicated to helping Activity Professionals with the daily operation of their department.
by Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, CRTS, Executive Director of DH Special Services.
Let Debbie answer your
Activity Questions
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC,
CRTS, is the Executive Director
of DH Special Services. She is a
Certified Activity Consultant on
State and National level, with
over twenty-seven years of
experience in providing direct
care and consultation to long
term care, medical day care,
assisted living, and ICF/MR
facilities throughout New Jersey,
New York, Maryland, and
Pennsylvania. She is an
experienced trainer and
workshop presenter, conducting
a variety of seminars throughout
the Tri-State area for the Activity
Professional, Administrator, and
allied healthcare professional.
Debbie Hommel is an active
member of Activity Professional
Associations on State and
National levels. She is ACC
certified through the NCCAP.
She is a founding member of
the New Jersey Activity
Professionals' Association,
serving terms as Vice President
and President. She received the
Weidner Lifetime Achievement
Award in 1994 and the
Monmouth & Ocean County
Activity Professionals Life
Achievement Award in 1999.
Providing Internet Resources
for Activity Professionals
in Long Term Care Settings

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The Activity Director's Office
All Rights Reserved

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Who is the Person in Person Centered Care?
Debbie Hommel, ACC, CTRS

It seems the new “buzz word” in long term care is focused on personhood:
  • Person centered care
  • Person first
  • Person appropriate
  • Person this
  • Person that

Is this a new idea or one that has been around for a while and is just being packaged
differently?  Why is it suddenly in favor and why is everyone talking about it?  The notion of
person centered therapy has been around since the 1950’s.  However, more recently, it has
transcended into the long term care realm through the culture change movement and
references within the revised F-248 guidelines.  

If we were to start at the beginning and look at the meaning of personhood, one would see the
notion of person or personhood varies greatly.  There are social, psychological, theological
and biological definitions of personhood – all open for discussion and debate. Most definitions
agree however that the core of personhood is having qualities that are distinctly individual.   
They also agree that personhood is a state of having human characteristics and feelings.  So,
what does this mean to those working in long term care facilities?  In the most fundamental
sense, person centered care means acknowledging the elder as an individual.  Regardless of
diagnosis, functional ability, or cognitive status – the elder should be given consistent
opportunities to continue to live their lives as the individual they are.  

You are probably thinking that you do this already.  Activity professionals learn early in their
careers to assess individual needs and create programs and approaches based on those
needs.  However, do you feel your facility as a whole has truly embraced this idea of
individualized, person centered care?  Most activity professionals have encountered various
barriers in providing truly individualized care.  Policies? Staff attitude? Rules of the facility?
Corporate Structure? Rules of the administrative staff?  Many activity professionals feel their
hands are tied on occasion or feel they are the only department who focuses on what the elder
wants.  In order to provoke change and embed the philosophies of the person centered care
movement into our long term care systems, the activity professional must become the Person
Centered Care Champion of the facility.  We need to educate ourselves as to the different
person centered care approaches and means to integrate them into our facility systems and
cultures.   Once we are the Person Centered Experts, we can begin to persuade others to
understand, accept and practice this way of providing care.

Understanding the language is the first step.  This article will address the vocabulary
associated with person centered care and future articles will review how the activity
professional can ensure person centered programming is occurring within their department
and means to integrated person centered care into facility practice.

Person Centered Definitions
Client Centered Therapy: Developed in 1951 by Carl Rogers, a behavioral psychologist, as a
form of counseling where the counselor focuses on the way a person perceives themselves
rather than how the counselor perceives the individual. Prior to this, the main approach was for
the therapist to identify problems in the individual and issue a “treatment”.  Rogers suggested
the client should be involved in the process and drive their own treatment.
Person Centered Counseling; Dedicated therapy which emphasizes going in the client’s
direction, at the clients pace and in the client’s unique way of being.

Person First:   A set of principles that set the person before the task and put the needs of the
person first.  This term became popular in the 1980’s when Tom Kitwood, founder of Bradford
Dementia Group introduced “person centered approach” to dementia care.  
Person Appropriate: This term was introduced in June 2006 with the revised guidance for F-
248.  The term replaced “age appropriate” and refers to the idea that each resident has a
personal identify and history that involves more than just their medical illness or functional
impairment.  Activities should be relevant to the specific needs, interests, culture, background
of the individual for who they were developed.

Person Centered Activities: Individualized activities that provide therapeutic benefit.  
Technically, activity departments have been providing person centered activities for years.
Person Centered Language:   Words which acknowledge and respect long term care residents
as individuals.  Use of less institutional and ageist terms is being driven by the culture change
movement and the Pioneer Network.  There is a great list of Institutional Language and words
to replace the words on the following web site
Person Centered Care Planning:  This is a form of care planning where the resident is central
and drives the plan of care.  A common trait of this style of care planning is the care plan is
written in the first person.  The problem, goal and interventions are stated in “I” terms, from the
elder’s perspective.  

Understanding the language is the first step.  Working them into practice is the next step.  Next
month, we will explore person centered activities and specific programs which meet individual
needs as well as provide opportunities for growth.                                  - END