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Free toolkit can improve quality of life of older adults in assisted living through person-centered practices

By Sonya Sutton, UNC Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research

New questionnaires are now available to help assisted living providers benchmark and monitor their person-centered practices. Use of these questionnaires can improve the care and quality of life of the 733,000 older adults who live in assisted living residences across the country.

The Toolkit for Person-Centeredness in Assisted Living was developed through a close partnership between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National Center for Excellence in Assisted Living (CEAL), along with assisted living providers, residents, family members, and organizational representatives. Available for free download, the Toolkit includes questionnaires to be completed by assisted living residents and staff, and simple, easy-to-follow instructions for scoring and interpreting the results. The questionnaires measure Person-Centered Practices in Assisted Living, and are called the PC-PAL.

Unlike other questionnaires that often are used, the PC-PAL questionnaires are based on research evidence and have been rigorously tested for ease of use and statistical validity.

“Everyone involved in assisted living – residents, family members, staff, organizational members – wants care to be individualized, but there hasn’t been a way to measure these practices and identify areas that are either especially strong or need improvement. Now there is,” said UNC School of Social Work Professor Sheryl Zimmerman, Ph.D., who led the university research team.
Zimmerman also noted that the involvement of a range of stakeholders in the developmental process assured that the questionnaires are relevant to and feasible for use by the people living and working in assisted living communities.

“A key mission of the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living is to promote research and distribute resources to support quality practices in assisted living. The PC-PAL is an important tool that furthers our goal,” said Robert Jenkens, Senior Vice President, National Cooperative Bank, and Chairman of the Board, CEAL.

He added that the PC-PAL is especially timely, considering that the Affordable Care Act and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require assisted living to be person-centered.

“Using this questionnaire will help providers be more intentional in their care and focused on person-centered care and practices,” emphasized Walter Coffey, a former assisted administrator and current President of LeadingAge Georgia, who participated in the development of the PC-PAL. “It’s simple, and can help provide care that truly meets the preferences of assisted living residents.”

The Program on Aging, Disability, and Long-Term Care of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, aims to better understand and improve the well-being of older persons and the quality of care they receive. For more information on the Program’s recent news and products, visit the Sheps Center website.

CEAL members collaborate to promote excellence in assisted living through practice, public policy, technical expertise and research. Members are AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, American Assisted Living Nurses Association, American Seniors Housing Association, Assisted Living Federation of America, CCAL-Advancing Person-Centered Living, LeadingAge, National Center for Assisted Living, The National Cooperative Bank, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Pioneer Network. For more information on CEAL’s mission and members, visit CEAL’s website.