Word choice matters

When partnering with another person, our words have the power to uplift, to patronize, to encourage, or even cause self doubt. Readthis introduction to a daughter helping her mother moving into a dementia care setting. Imagine saying these words and the related emotions you might feel using them. “Welcome to our facility. We are glad you placed your mom here with us. We are a locked unit, so no worries about her escaping like she did at home. The girls in the back will love on her like she is their own. They will use a toileting schedule to help with her incontinence challenges and will assist with her feeding if she needs. We allow our residents to…” 

What message is this giving? The underlying implication is that the mother was put here, being given no choice. It implies that she needs to be controlled, that she doesn’t deserve freedom. The support staff aren’t deserving of respectful titles but just termed ‘the girls’. The new area where she now lives is considered ‘in the back’ rather than an honored and important part of the larger community. Toileting and feeding are just tasks to be done ‘to’ her rather than life experiences that deserve support with respect and care. And those living there must be given permission by ‘allowing them’ to function in their own home. If leadership uses this language when welcoming a new family, they likely manage and lead with the same approach.

It is important to assess the implied meaning of the words we use. As the industry encourages a shift from institutional words to more person-centered language, you may see a change from the term caregiver to carepartner. Why is this meaningful? A careGIVER is a one way exchange.  A carePARTNER reflects the companionship between the two, it implies a relationship. Some might say, ‘it’s just a word’, but that word carries with it meaning and impact to the one hearing the word as well as the one saying it. Consider community versus facility. If you were transitioning from your own home where you had lived alone for 30 years to a new senior living setting, would you want to talk about moving to a facility, or would you rather discuss the option of becoming involved in your new community? How might those words impact the way you approach the move? 

With this in mind, read this next passage and ask yourself how you might feel differently saying these words. “Welcome to our community. We are so glad that your mother will be joining us. Our community has a focus on safety and will provide your mother with a sense of security. The care partners in our neighborhood are eager to get to know her and help her to feel at home. They will support her and provide assistance as needed with dining and personal care. We encourage residents to…” 

Your words have power. Your language matters.  Choose wisely!

Follow the Inspired Senior Care Instagram channel during May to build awareness of the impact our language has in the field of senior living. You can make a difference! InspiredSeniorCare Instagram

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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