Background: Person-centred care has been identified as the ideal approach to caring for people with dementia. Developed in relation to long stay settings, there are challenges to its implementation in acute settings. However, international policy indicates that acute care for people with dementia should be informed by the principles of person-centred care and interventions should be designed to sustain their personhood.
Objectives: Using Kitwood's five dimensions of personhood as an a priori framework, the aim of this paper was to explore the way in which current approaches to care in acute settings had the potential to enhance personhood in older adults with dementia.
Design: Data collected to explore the current experiences of people with dementia, family carers and co-patients (patients sharing the ward with people with mental health problems) during hospitalisation for acute illness were analysed using a dementia framework that described core elements of person centred care for people with dementia.
Settings: Recruitment was from two major hospitals within the East Midlands region of the UK, focusing on patients who were admitted to general medical, health care for older people, and orthopaedic wards.
Participants: Participants were people aged over 70 on the identified acute wards, identified through a screeing process as having possible mental health problems. 34 patients and their relatives were recruited: this analysis focused on the 29 patients with cognitive impairment.
Method: The study involved 72 h of ward-based non-participant observations of care complemented by 30 formal interviews after discharge concerning the experiences of the 29 patients with cognitive impairment. Analysis used the five domains of Kitwood's model of personhood as an a priori framework: identity, inclusion, attachment, comfort and occupation.
Results: While there were examples of good practice, health care professionals in acute settings were not grasping all opportunities to sustain personhood for people with dementia.
Conclusions: There is a need for the concept of person-centred care to be valued at the level of both the individual and the organisation/team for people with dementia to have appropriate care in acute settings.
Keywords: Delirium; Dementia; Frail elderly; General; Hospitals; Nursing; Person-centred care; Qualitative research.
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