Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Person-centred language guidelines - fight stigma

Language really does count. It shapes the way we think about life and living. Back in the 70s we realized that inclusive language helped girls navigate their way through life. No longer do we call them firemen, chairmen, or policemen. Instead, we allow us to include choices for women. Police officers, firefighters, and chairs.

I have written about how some with a cancer diagnosis loathe the language around words like, battle, fight, survivor, sufferer, victim. It demeans and diminishes those with disease. The same is true for those with dementia. At least half a million Canadians have Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. One of the first challenges they face after being diagnosed is how to tell their friends and family. Many fear social stigma and isolation from their loved ones. In fact, they tell us that people treat them differently.

Adult Day Care = Adult Day Away Programs.
Bibs = aprons, or clothing protectors
Diapers = adult incontinence products, or briefs.
Nursing Home = Long-term Care

The Alzheimer Society of BHQ writes:

By consciously using language in a more sensitive manner, we can avoid reducing individuals
with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to a series of labels, symptoms or medical terms.
The Alzheimer Society has developed these language guidelines as a tool for anyone who lives
with, supports or cares about a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.


The Alzheimer Society has developed Person-Centred Language Guidelines as a tool for anyone who lives with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias or supports someone who does. By consciously using language in a more respectful manner, we can all reduce the stigma of the disease. Download your copy.

See also:
Elizabeth Allen's Open Letter on Alzheimer's to her friends and family
In part, she said:
Don't offer me platitudes, telling me that everyone forgets where they puts their keys isn't what I face. Dementia is different than this.Don't dismiss me.Ask me questions: What are your symptoms? What are your medications are you taking? How are you doing?
Have an open and honest conversation, just as if I had cancer or another disease.There are many stages to this disease, this is one phase and for now treat me with respect. See me as the person I am now and not how I will be in the future.Enjoy us for the things we all still do.Let me make mistakes and understand I am not perfect. Don't run away from the disease, you run away from your friends.See us for who we are, and not for our disease.

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