Setting the tone through word choice

If you work in a senior living environment, regardless of the level of care, listen to the words or language used in your environment.  Are they uplifting and respectful, or are they potentially condescending and more institutional? Consider these phrases you may have heard when working with clients. “Have you toileted room 405?”,  “Honey, you can’t do that.”, “Come on everyone, let’s go play balloon toss.”  How could these words create a negative environment, and what are alternatives?  

  • ‘Toileting someone’ may be a phrase used in a hospital setting, but should not be used in a home environment. It relays institutional tone and does not support the desired sense of comfort and respect to those who live there. Use terms such as assisting or supporting personal needs. 
  • Referring to a person by a number or using terms of endearment like honey, baby, or darling do nothing to create personal connections or show respect for them as individuals. I recently had a waitress call me ‘baby’ multiple times during each interaction. It felt demeaning and fake, and caused me to feel anxious each time she approached. Is this the sense we want to convey? In a community setting, hearing one’s own preferred name can provide a sense of connection and also increase their sense of belonging. 
  • Telling a person ‘you can’t do that’ implies that they have no control in their own home, that they need to be given permission to go about their activities. Use words that provide options or coaching on what is preferred rather than negative words to state what not to do. 
  • The array of careers, accomplishments, and experiences of those you serve is expansive. Treat them as the adults they are by providing mature content and opportunities and naming them appropriately. A simple question to ask: Is the activity more appropriate for a grade school class or group of adults? 

There are many more terms that are commonly used in senior living settings that imply a custodial attitude. The words that are used can negatively impact the tone and culture of the environment. Listen closely to the words you and others use and ask yourself, “Is this how I would want to be talked to in my own home environment?” 

If your senior living community would like tools to lead these key concepts in your community, reach out to Inspired Senior Care to schedule a time to learn more about our program.

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