Optimizing Client Outcomes through a Person-Centered Approach


In a person-centered approach to health and wellness, experts in care are making the individual the focus. Healthcare practitioners are factoring client history and limitations into their recommendations, outcomes are measured by the progress made by the individual, and goals are set (and re-set) based on that person’s wants and needs.

The person-centered philosophy dates back to the 1940s, when a psychologist named Carl Rogers theorized that if a supportive environment is provided for a client, that client would be able to receive positive insights and take meaningful action (Kirschenbaum, 2021). By the 1960s, the concept of “patient-centered medicine” picked up speed, emphasizing that each patient has a unique set of circumstances that impact the care that they receive (Morgan & Yoder, 2011). Over time, the person-centered approach (as opposed to a more traditional disease-focused approach) has become a guiding principle for quality health care delivery.

At its core, person-centered care allows for the healthcare practitioners to individualize recommendations for each patient. As part of a revision of the standards of practice for working with patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics created a framework of considerations to take when setting health management goals for patients (Conway, Lemons, & Terrazas, 2020). On application, the framework can be used to shape the care of any individual, especially those whose health concerns impact their activities of daily living or mental functioning. Some of these considerations include:

Social/Living Environments

Through this lens, the healthcare practitioner considers the patient’s home environment. A person who lives independently will need different kinds of support than one who lives in a group living environment (such as a skilled nursing or assisted living facility). Their home environment may or may not be in a convenient location to a medical center for follow-up appointments, a pharmacy to receive life-sustaining medications, or a grocery store to purchase nutritious food. They may be dealing with a recent change in their social support structure (for example, the loss of a significant other) that makes their home life more challenging than before. For those patients, person-centered care adjustments like telemedicine appointments as well as programs like congregate meals, meal delivery, and community transportation services can allow the person to maintain their health and independence for longer (Hou, 2020).

Communication Methods

A person’s ability to communicate impacts their care in several meaningful ways. Their primary language, education, and literacy levels can impact understanding of medical diagnoses, medication regimens, and educational handouts. A person with a disability, dementia, or recent stroke may be unable to speak fully with their care provider or might need assistive technology or an interpreter to communicate. Health care practitioners benefit from the use of models, pictures, and simplified language to convey messages effectively to most patients.

Barriers to Quality of Life

Understanding a person’s limitations is a crucial part of developing goals for effective care. Whether the barrier comes in the form of the person’s physical ability, lack of access or knowledge, dependency on others, concurrent health conditions (including allergies and intolerances), or financial factors, each person brings a unique set of challenges to the table. A person with reduced mobility may no longer be able to acquire or prepare food like they used to. A person newly diagnosed with a health condition may need to learn to read food labels for the first time. The person-centered approach allows the individual to navigate these complications while achieving their wellness goals.

Food Selection and Eating Factors

A person’s knowledge, preferences, and habits around food correlate directly with their health. From cultural and religious preferences to compulsive and disordered eating behaviors, a person’s ability and willingness to follow a certain diet or eating pattern will affect the approach a practitioner will take. For example, a person with severe sensory issues or food intolerances may need to work closely with a dietitian to find a menu that meets their specific nutritional needs. Others might need coaching on how to manage choosing foods at a restaurant or family gathering after a new health diagnosis. Food preferences and behaviors are as varied as people themselves. Person-centered providers consider it all.

With Unidine, individuals benefit from the person-centered approach at every turn.

  • Unidine’s commitment to scratch-cooking using fresh, responsibly sourced ingredients considers the individual preferences of clients and customers to provide a healthy, nutritionally complete menu.
  • Programs like Culinary Explorations and community gardens allow those in group living environments to engage with the food they consume.
  • The Memory Fare program makes creative adjustments to dining environments that better suit the needs of the individuals who might otherwise become overstimulated.
  • The Puree with Purpose program brings wholesome, visually appealing foods to individuals with food texture modification needs.

A person-centered approach is key to promoting long-term wellbeing for every individual. As a leader in wellness and hospitality, the approach is a cornerstone of Unidine’s commitment to meet the needs of its clients and communities.


Submitted by Maddie Martini, MS, RD CD                                      

Maddie Martini is a Clinical Nutrition Manager at Brookside Care Center in Kenosha, WI. She has been a dietitian with Unidine since August 2018 and has worked with individuals across the lifespan. She values the opportunities provided through Unidine for professional growth, collaboration with culinary and clinical teams, and in support of operational excellence in clinical nutrition and food safety and sanitation.