Watch Your Language!

Kudos to my friend Marguerite Manteau-Rao for highlighting the importance of words in crafting our attitudes toward people living with Alzheimer’s and other types of forgetfulness:

Reviewing the New York Times articles from this past year on Alzheimer’s, I tried hard to find some positive words, and encountered instead a language imbued with fear and coldness, and that dehumanized the persons living with the condition:

They are ‘patients’, ‘sufferers’, ‘victims’, or sometimes just plain ‘cases’.

They are ‘afflicted’, ‘demented’, or ‘suffering’.

They are being cared for by ‘caregivers’.

They ‘suffer’ from a ‘dreaded’, ‘terrifying’, ‘terrible’, ‘fatal’, ‘horrific’, ‘devastating’, ‘bad’, ‘debilitating’ ‘disease’, called ‘dementia’.

They are being ‘robbed’ of all that matters most.

They live in ‘assisted living facilities’.

They are ‘stages’, beginning, middle and end, early or late onset.

They present ‘behavior problems’ — they ‘act out’, they scream, they wander, they are ‘combative’.

They need to be ‘managed’.

They are a ‘burden’.

They have an illness that needs to be ‘attacked’, and ‘beaten’.

(I might add that the NY Times series is titled “The Vanishing Mind”!)

Read the full blog post and her suggested word chocies here:

Thanks, Marguerite!

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3 Responses to Watch Your Language!

  1. Thank you Al. And most of all gratitude for all your groundbreaking work, being the voice for all the persons in various stages of forgetfulness.

  2. Kris Hintz says:

    Hi Al. Great post! Depersonalizing labels are heartbreaking in the case of Alzheimer’s, as in so many diseases that afflict our friends and loved ones. Having recently lost a dear friend to ALS, I also noticed how cold and depersonalizing language can be. It either numbs the heart or scares people into avoiding the person with the condition—abandoning them physically and emotionally when they need us most.

  3. WEGO Ellen says:

    I love, love love this post and Marguerite’s as well. This could apply to any health condition, but I think it’s especially good for Alzheimer’s… Thanks!

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