Person- and Relational-Centered Care Concepts 

Provide Foundation for Our Work

We believe strongly in person- and relational-centered care. All of our services are designed to promote and facilitate this kind of care, and in so doing, improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and dementias, and their families. 


Person- and relational-centered care concepts originate as far back as 1949 in the foundational work of Carl Rogers and his approach to client-centered psychology. Then, in 1997, Tom Kitwood wrote a seminal book titled, Dementia Reconsidered: The Person Comes First. In it, he discussed how individuals living with dementia have an enduring sense of self, and maintain feelings, preferences and personality characteristics until the end of life. He said:


If personhood appears to have been undermined, is any of that a consequence of the ineptitude of others, who have all their cognitive powers intact? If uniqueness has faded into a grey oblivion, how far is it because those around have not developed the empathy that is necessary, or their ability to relate in a truly personal way?


If we follow the development of any person’s dementing condition closely, again and again we will come to see how social and interpersonal factors come into play, either adding to the difficulties directly arising from neurological impairment, or helping to lessen their effects…In very many cases, we find that the process of dementia is also the story of a tragic inadequacy of our culture…our medical system and our general way of life.

Today, variations on Kitwood’s person- and relational-centered care practices are accepted as the gold standard for healthcare by the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine. However, the general perception of dementia has traditionally and more commonly focused on cognitive losses and functional impairments rather than on proactive approaches for understanding individual symptoms and person-centered strategies for disease management.

In 2018, the Alzheimer's Association published their Dementia Care Practice Recommendations. With the fundamentals of person-centered care at the foundation, the Dementia Care Practice Recommendations illustrate the goals of quality dementia care in several areas shown in this figure:

For each of the nine areas described, specific care practice recommendations are provided. The Practice Recommendations for Person-Centered Care (Fazio, Pace, Flinner, & Kallmyer, 2018) are the foundation of the framework. 

  1. Know the person living with dementia

    The individual living with dementia is more than a diagnosis. It is important to know the unique and complete person, including his/her values, beliefs, interests, abilities, likes, and dislikes—both past and present. This information should inform every interaction and experience.

  2. Recognize and accept the person’s reality

    It is important to see the world from the perspective of the individual living with dementia. Doing so recognizes behavior as a form of communication, thereby promoting effective and empathetic communication that validates feelings and connects with the individual in his/her reality.

  3. Identify and support ongoing opportunities for meaningful engagement

    Every experience and interaction can be seen as an opportunity for engagement. Engagement should be meaningful to, and purposeful for, the individual living with dementia. It should support interests and preferences, allow for choice and success, and recognize that even when the dementia is most severe, the person can experience joy, comfort, and meaning in life.

  4. Build and nurture authentic, caring relationships

    Persons living with dementia should be part of relationships that treat them with dignity and respect, and where their individuality is always supported. This type of caring relationship is about being present and concentrating on the interaction, rather than the task. It is about “doing with” rather than “doing for” as part of a supportive and mutually beneficial relationship.

  5. Create and maintain a supportive community for individuals, families, and staff

    A supportive community allows for comfort and creates opportunities for success. It is a community that values each person and respects individual differences, celebrates accomplishments and occasions, and provides access to and opportunities for autonomy, engagement, and shared experiences.

  6. Evaluate care practices regularly and make appropriate changes

    Several tools are available to assess person-centered care practices for people living with dementia. It is important to regularly evaluate practices and models, share findings, and make changes to interactions, programs, and practices as needed.

© 2019 by Alzheimer's Matters