What does the latest research say about the benefits of person-centered care for people with dementia and their care partners? Plenty, according to Kimberly VanHaitsma, PhD, co-founder of Preference Based Living and Professor and Director of the Center for Person-Centered Living Systems of Care at Penn State. Dr. VanHaitsma spoke at the National Institute on Aging Research Summit on Care, Services, and Supports for Persons with Dementia and Their Caregivers.

Here are four key takeaways from her remarks:

  • Nonpharmacological approaches, such as tailored activities and cognitive stimulation, show real promise to treat, manage or even prevent some of the negative outcomes for older adults living with dementia.
  • For care partners, psychoeducational programs, social support and respite care can improve wellbeing, communication skills, and reduce burden and distress.
  • Positive psychology studies find that increasing the ratio of even simple experiences that yield positive emotions for an older adult living with dementia can have a measurable and sustained benefit.
  • Researchers are focusing on how best to optimize the experience of living with dementia and how to allow what most people want in life, which is to flourish. In line with this emphasis, Dr. Van Haitsma and colleagues are creating tools to assess how well providers match daily care and activities to important preferences expressed by people living with dementia.

While there is still much to learn, the evidence base for person-centered care has grown tremendously. Going forward, it is critical for researchers and practitioners to prioritize the goals and outcomes that are most meaningful for the person living with dementia and their care partners.

View all three of the NIA Virtual Summit on Dementia Care, Caregiving, and Services Research sessions at https://www.nia.nih.gov/2020-dementia-care-summit#Materials

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