Using Positive, Person-First Language
The stigma surrounding any disease can hurt those diagnosed with the disease, and this is certainly true of dementia stigma. Fear of this diagnosis can lead someone experiencing the symptoms of dementia to avoid getting help. And once a person is diagnosed with the disease, stigma can lead to judgment from friends and family and a lower quality of life.
The Importance of Fighting Stigma
As the caregiver, friend, or family member of someone with dementia, you should fight the dementia stigma and make sure your loved one knows they are valued and seen as a whole person, not just a victim of a disease.
One of the most basic yet vital ways to treat people with dignity and help them feel valued and respected is to change how we speak about them. Using person-centered language is an excellent first step toward fighting the stigma around dementia.
How to Use Person-Centered Language
If you would like to use person-centered language, there are three areas to focus on:
- The Behaviors – Describing your loved one as “difficult” or “violent” is reductive and unspecific. Instead, if you’re speaking to a doctor or someone about your loved one’s symptoms, describe the behavior without judging the person. A great way to approach this is to mention specific examples.
- The Person – Consider how your loved one would feel if they heard constant mentions of their disease or words like “senile” or “demented.” People living with dementia face many obstacles, but they have a lot to offer and deserve dignity and happiness. Use terms like “person with dementia” or describe dementia as a condition; this can help center your loved one rather than the disease in the conversation.
- The Caregiver – While caring for a person with dementia can be challenging, calling it a “burden” has a negative connotation. If you are discussing the topic, use terms like “effects of caregiving,” “caregiver stress,” or “caregiver challenges” with specific examples to describe your experience.
For a comprehensive look at using person-centered language, check out this handy guide provided by the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Turn to Us for Compassionate Memory Care
How we speak to and about those with dementia can impact how they feel and how the world sees them. At Maple Ridge, we provide a person-centered approach to memory care here in Essex Junction. If you want more information about how we care for seniors with this disease, please contact us today.