Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Caregiver's Language of Caring

Clearly the topic of the words we use in talking about caregiving is a concern to many. Roy G. Gedat wrote,
This came up as a priority at the recent Direct Care Alliance national convention of direct care worker associations. 18 states were represented and our goal is "to help determine universal terms for DCW issues."
The words we use do reflect how we feel about people and about tasks. One of the words I've struggled with in the past is "resident" to reflect people who live in our care communities.

Although moving to "resident" is an improvement from "patient", I used to teach my staff to refer to the folks living in our assisted living communities as "the people who call this their home." It helped remind us that this WAS their home, and to communicate that to others, especially guests and prospective families.

The problem, of course, is that we've replaced one short word with 7 words - not an easy solution. As I look at many word suggestions for replacing other words that don't reflect our current view on caregiving, I see the same pattern. A challenge, clearly, if we are to replace words with new terms that gain broad usage.

I have to chuckle, speaking of words, at the creative language people use to talk about their experiences as members of the "sandwich generation." Colorful language - all in an effort to help communicate how truly challenging this role is for many of us.

Some have referred to feeling like an open-faced salami sandwich, lying face-down on the sidewalk. Others have talked about feeling like a smushed flat PB&J. Judy Steininger describes the feelings of living your life when, out of the blue, you get a phone call that a parent has suffered a serious mishap. Meanwhile, you're busy balancing your kid's soccer game and dinner for the family.
Just like that, you’ve become the newest member of the Sandwich Generation. If you’ve always liked your lunch served on wheat or rye, in the months or years ahead, you’ll learn to appreciate sourdough.

I think this generation is perfectly equipped to handle the task of creating a new language of caregiving. We're talking the Baby Boomers, Sandwich Generation - or whatever term you want to use - but we're talking about people who are all about creating a new language!


  1. Wow, this is a great site. Thanks for addressing this really important issue of caregiving!

  2. Reframing our thoughts can help us restructure some of the language of aging and caregiving. No matter how conflictual the emotions, we all do better by trying to keep a positive attitude. Sandwich generation is a great visual - and all the derivations from that add humor to the pathos.