Putting the 'Person First' in dementia care

Bupa’s ‘Person First’ approach to care guides everything we do. Margaret Ryan, Bupa’s Head of Dementia, explains why and how we do this.

At Bupa, we believe ‘Person First’ care is important for all our residents, and particularly for those who are living with dementia. We call it ‘Person First’ care because it centres on putting the person first; within the industry it is also known as ‘person-centred’ care.
This type of care seeks to understand the perspective of each of our residents. It informs everything Bupa does. It’s how we address each person, how we talk and how we care for our residents that helps to always give them a sense of themselves. 

Know their background

It can sometimes be distressing for someone with dementia to be receiving care, particularly when they don’t remember why they need it. If we don’t take into account their routines and habits, it can cause frustration or anxiety.

When we get to know the person as an individual we can adapt our care around the things they’re familiar with, and think creatively about ways to help ease that frustration, like talking about their family or putting on a song they love. It helps us build rapport and trust with our residents.

Knowing a person’s background helps us to understand what the person might be trying to tell us, particularly if they have trouble communicating. If we try to understand the person first, then we can come up with ways of meeting their needs and giving them the support and comfort they need. 

Using visual cues and clues to residents’ lives

Ron looking at map of life
When residents first move in to our homes, ‘a map of life’ is created for each resident, which is essentially a picture board that helps staff gather information about the person, their life and their story. If we start talking about things that interest them, we can then follow the flow of the conversation from there, either with them or their family.

From that, we create a life board that’s a visual representation of their story. These boards are as unique as a person is: some are filled with family photos, and others are just a favourite football team’s logo. The boards provide a point of reference for a carer to start communicating with that resident. It gives them a sense of self and pride. We can then structure the way we care for them around these things, so that the person always comes first.


Happy aged care resident
Terri Cause, general manager of Bupa Tugun aged care home in Tugun, Queensland, explains: 

“We have a gentleman here who used to go to a local sporting group twice a week and he can’t go anymore as he is living with dementia, so we brought that sport here. The sporting club donated some equipment and we learnt the rules of the game, and now once a week this particular resident runs a sporting event here.”

The ‘Person First’ approach demonstrates that while it’s important to understand what a resident’s needs are from a care perspective, and the condition they may have, it’s also important to incorporate the person’s life story and history into their care. This can help carers to understand the personality and the experiences of the person, not just their likes, dislikes and preferences, and also how they cope with difficulties and challenges.

Bupa Aged Care

Bupa Aged Care, offers a full range of care including respite, residential and specialised dementia care.

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