One of the biggest and best caregiving lessons I’ve learned over the last five years is words matter. Starting a discussion with “You must”, “You should” get’s me nowhere with my mother. The concept is so central to how mom and I interact, that I devote an entire chapter on having hard conversations in my book “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.”
But the words you use in your HEAD about your loved one and how that colors YOUR view of them is another way in which words matter. To add to this concept, the words used when you advocate for your loved one, colors how OTHERS view them.
Matt Perrin of Ro and Steve writes so beautifully about this very topic in his article “Choice of Words Matters In Dementia.” His point is that how we refer to, describe and communicate with people living with dementia matters. Words matter for people living with dementia for the same reason as they matter for my mom. The words in your head impact how you think of a person, which in turn impacts how others see them. The words you use when you advocate matter. The difference between “Mom suffers from dementia” and “Mom is a person living with dementia is night and day. As Matt writes: “Words matter because they give people the ability to recognize and treat your loved one with dignity. If we all engage in this way, over time, it will help do away with the stigma of dementia.”
Thank you, Matt, for broadening my understanding of why words matter. And for your advocacy work not only for your parents Ro and Steve, who are living with Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body Dementia respectively, but for everyone living with dementia. Kudo’s on your work helping people to navigate the world of home care and community living.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.