The Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP) and the Dementia Action Alliance have announced a ‘Call to Action’, to improve the language used when talking about dementia. The campaign welcomes the increasing frequency with which dementia is discussed and how this can improve the understanding and awareness of the condition. It also highlights that the language used can be disrespectful and may have a negative impact on how those living with dementia are viewed.
In an attempt to improve the way in which dementia is discussed, DEEP has published Dementia words matter: Guidelines on language about dementia, to promote the use of respectful language and to avoid what it describes as ‘curl up and die’ terms such as ‘dementia sufferer’, ‘senile’ and ‘demented’. Read on to find out why this guidance is relevant to your service and how you can ensure that your own language sends out a positive message about dementia.
‘Words are very powerful – they can build you up or put you down. When you are speaking about dementia remember this.’ These are the words of Agnes Houston, a person with dementia, and they reflect just how much careless language can impact on the wellbeing of someone living with dementia.
Dementia Words Matter lists many of the words and descriptions that can cause particular distress, along with recommendations for more appropriate language. The report asks organisations to commit to the ‘3 Cs’ of Check, Change and Challenge to help improve their own language.
How to Implement the 3 Cs within Your Service
- Check. Check your own publications, documentation and the language commonly used by your staff for terms that may be inappropriate or cause offence. Phrases such as ‘dementia sufferer’, ‘dementia victim’ or ‘dementia patient’ can all depersonalise the person concerned and can be seen as reducing them to little more than the recipient of a service, rather than someone still capable of having an active and meaningful life.
- Change. Where appropriate, change any terms that you have identified as being potentially inappropriate. Phrases such as ‘person with dementia’, or ‘person living with dementia’, can be used to replace ‘sufferer’ or ‘victim’. Using more positive terms that show you have an approach that values the skills and abilities of the individual concerned and acknowledges their wish to continue to enjoy an active and fulfilling life.
- Challenge. Act as an agent for change in improving the language used to discuss dementia by challenging others and making them aware of the Dementia Words Matter project. Start by making your own service a zero-tolerance zone for disrespectful language and encourage your staff to spread the good practice.