Words are a powerful source of communication. They can leave a huge impact on large groups of people and they can change the way we see the world. We often forget how important words are. This can create obstacles in relationships. We forget how dangerous and beautiful words can be. Orchard at Athens knows that words are important, especially in the aging population. Often the words that we use to describe people who are aging are unflattering, and even more so when talking about people living with dementia or when talking about dementia itself. In this article we’ll explore the importance of choosing the right words in more detail, and provide tips for how to talk to someone living with dementia.
Tips For Talking About Dementia
Words are powerful. We must be intentional and cautious when we are talking about dementia.
Below are some examples of how to use words to shed a positive light on dementia:
- Do not use dementia as the primary word to describe someone. When we do this, we are putting a person in a box and this is not the whole of the person’s identity.
- Use uplifting language when explaining dementia to a younger person. This will have a strong influence on how they see individuals who have dementia.
- Referring to people with dementia as ‘sufferers’ or as ‘victims’ implies that they are helpless. This can alter an individual’s self esteem and self-image. It reinforces inaccurate stereotypes and heightens the fear and stigma surrounding dementia.
- Using the correct terms avoids confusion. There are over 100 forms of dementia, all coming with different challenges. Make sure you are using the correct vocabulary when discussing dementia with someone else.
How Words Can Impact People Living With Dementia
The words used to talk or write about dementia can have a significant impact on how people living with dementia are viewed and treated in the community. Words that are used in speech and in writing can have huge influence over:
- Feelings of happiness
- Feelings of depression
- Sense of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of loneliness
A casual misuse of words or the use of words with negative connotations when talking about dementia in everyday conversations can have a profound impact on the person with dementia as well as on their family and friends. It can also influence how others think about dementia and increase the likelihood of a person with dementia experiencing stigma or discrimination. Appropriate language must be:
How We Talk About Dementia
The words that we choose to use are ones that describe our residents and future residents as vibrant and healthy. We choose this because we know that there is still a lot of life to live for someone who has dementia. Our staff is conscious to use language that:
- Is appropriate
- Is accurate
- Is respectful
- Is inclusive
- Is empowering
- Is non-judgemental
We know that people living with dementia can thrive and have a wonderful quality of life. We use words to advocate for them as productive members of society. We also are sure to explain that older adults can be fully engaged in their life, maintain relationships, experience joy, be creative, learn new activities and teach others. We communicate with our words that even though someone has dementia, their diagnosis does not limit them from being able to live their life to the fullest.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a tour of our community, please contact us.