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Elderspeak

Who are we talking about?

When talking in long-term care settings, people sometimes use language that sounds like baby talk or they call people they do not know well by their first names. This is called patronizing speech.  

Although this kind of talk is most common with older people and nursing home residents, this affects people of all ages, and may affect you when you enter the health care system.

Let's start by looking at some features of language that people complain about.

 

Language that bothers people

High pitched voice

  • Description - Using a high pitched voice or exaggerating words
  • How it affects the person hearing it - Older people have more trouble hearing and understanding a high pitched voice.

Loud voice

  • Description - Increase in the volume of speech
  • How it affects the person hearing it - This can distort hearing for many older people with normal hearing loss.
Slow talking

  • Description - Speaking more slowly and with shorter sentences
  • How it affects the person hearing it - This may not help the older person understand

One-sided conversation

  • Description - The speaker does not wait for a response but carries on the conversation without the other person.
  • How it affects the person hearing it - Person feels powerless

Calling someone "dear" or "sweety"

  • Description - Intimate names or terms of endearment such as "honey", "dear" or "sweety"
  • How it affects the person hearing it - The person sees this as a lack of respect or a "put down".

Using first names

  • Description - Refers to person by first name before they know each other well.
  • How it affects the person hearing it - When a person who does not know you well calls you by your first name, it feels as if they are more powerful than you are.

Saying, "It's time for our bath"

  • Description - Using "we" or "our" when speaking to an older person.
  • How it affects the person hearing it - It confuses the difference between you and me. Implies that the person cannot make independent decisions.

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