A Ban on Terms of Endearment? – Oh Dear!

  • Much debate has ensued since the airing of a news item on the BBC Breakfast News yesterday morning regarding The Commission on Dignity in Care for Older People’s report recommending a ban on the use of terms of endearment (e.g. love, pet or dear) when dealing with the elderly.  The Sun Newspaper also printed a report online on which many people have commented, mostly in the negative I might add and I felt compelled to write my six penneth worth as well.

    I think most people, including perhaps the news agencies themselves have rather missed the point here and really failed to see the bigger picture.  Many have labelled the report as “Political Correctness gone mad”, others have focussed on The Commission on Dignity in Care for Older People being a jobs-for-the-boys quango who have nothing better to do than publish such political y correct nonsense.  But, as I stated in my comment in The Sun Online, I’d really rather like to play Devil’s Advocate here and take a look at that bigger picture.

    As a therapist practising my particular disciplines, the power of language and effectiveness in communication is something that has become of paramount importance in my dealings with clients.  Indeed, I have even been retained by a well known learning provider on the south coast to produce a course on the subject aimed at the education sector.

    So being “an expert” in human communication, I can state with some authority that only 7% of this communication is the words we speak.  The very same words that this report, news items and subsequent negative comment seems to focus.  What about the other 93%?  Our body language, tone of voice, pitch and loudness of our voices, even what our eyes are doing.  Let me give you an example.  If a carer were to use a term or endearment like “Dear” with an elderly patient in an endearing fashion, then I for one see no problem with that.  Especially if that person has indicated they don’t mind such endearments.  It can show understanding and compassion.  Yet use the the same endearment in an impatient tone of voice, perhaps with your arms crossed or hands on your hips and a frown on your face, THEN it becomes patronising to the point of being rude.

    In the bigger picture I have posted in this blog before on this subject.  Hospitals and GP receptionists serving as just two examples.  I feel that everyone, including the report author,  has missed the point here.  I agree that perhaps nursing has become too academic yet I’m not damning the good job they do or indeed that of carers of the elderly.  Yet time and again I’ve banged the drum to foster better communication and I feel that this report has missed an ideal opportunity to bang that same drum and just ruffled the feathers of the good people in the job!


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