Language, language!

Posted on May 18th, by geoff in CT blog. 2 comments

By Caring Times editor Geoff Hodgson

Towards the end of April the British Geriatric Society released a market research report which found that most older people are “put off” by the term “frailty”, and that older people and health professionals see frailty as an inevitable and progressive condition experienced at the very end of life. Wow! Who would have thought that?

Possible “solutions” offered in answer to this “problem” include: avoiding the use of the term ‘frailty’ or ‘frail’ when caring for and supporting older people and using language that promotes more positive aspects of what evidence-based healthcare can offer, rooted in what people can do rather than what they cannot do.

Also, there has been recent online discussion about terms and phrases to avoid when talking about someone who is suffering from dementia (and that’s a no-no for a start – nobody suffers from dementia; they live with the condition, in the same way I suppose that people don’t suffer from trigeminal neuralgia – they simply live with it (although some have been know to commit suicide rather than endure the truly horrendous pain). Anyone who cannot imagine the mental anguish of someone who is aware of the remorseless degradation of their cognitive function can’t have much imagination.

Of course we must be sensitive about the terms we employ and the language we use in all spheres of life, and the care of elderly people is a sensitive area and often calls for sensitive language, but I think there is a dangerous to tendency to become over-prescriptive, to a point where essential truths can be obscured or diminished beneath a glossy patina of politically correct, well-intentioned jargon.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

2 responses to “Language, language!”

  1. Gillian Dalley says:

    Well said!

  2. Tom Cooper says:

    Geoff you are absolutely right. It is a sad fact that in modern Britain we appear to be unable to cope with the truths about many life situations and avoid facing up to them by hiding behind a facade of bland sooth-speak that ostensibly seeks to promote the positive but actually deliberately obscures the often grim realities involved. I think that is a cowardly and selfish cop-out on the part of the speaker who wants to avoid any emotional discomfort and is an insult to people’s intelligence. Far better to acknowledge such realities and describe things accurately so that uncomfortable truths are not sidestepped even if it upsets some people. Life is tough and let us not pretend otherwise by telling people they are not sufferers or victims or frail when plainly in some cases they are. Honesty does not have to be brutal but equally language must not be used to circumvent or downplay inconvenient truths. Is it not that sort of reticence that led to the female genital mutilation scandal now emerging in this country?

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