Official conceptualizations of person-centered care: which person counts?

J Aging Stud. 2013 Aug;27(3):233-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2013.03.003. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


Numerous studies have indicated that a "psycho-social" person-centered care approach, involving the delivery of a compassionate, respectful model of care, leads to a high quality of life, particularly for older people living in residential care. This has prompted policy-makers to endorse this approach. Yet, some commentators have argued that the model of person-centered care in official government policies equates to a "consumer-based" rather than a psycho-social approach, as it focuses solely on offering service-users more choice and on promoting independence. However, as such arguments are made in the absence of any empirical analysis, it is unclear both whether such a distinction exists in practice, and, if so, how this alternative model developed. This study explores the development of minimum standards for residential care settings for older people in Ireland in order to address this gap in our understanding of person-centered care. Findings confirm that a consumer-driven model of person-centered care underpins the Irish Standards; residential care is portrayed as a hotel-like service and residents as discerning consumers, which may be unsuitable for older people in residential care with limited capacity to make key choices. Analysis indicates that this model can be seen both as an extension of consumer-driven policies endorsed by many neo-liberal governments, and also of policy-makers' fears of losing their autonomy when they reach the "Fourth Age". This study is particularly illuminating, given the similarities between the Irish care system with England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Australia.

Keywords: Autonomy; Choice; Discourse analysis; Minimum standards; Person-centered care; Residential care.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Homes for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Patient-Centered Care*