Using Person-Centred Language to Change Dementia Care

By: Gurpreet Kaur RN, BScN & Think Research Clinical Consultant 

Words matter. 

We all know that to be true. When it comes to the language used to describe people living with dementia, negativity is often pervasive.  

Stereotypes that focus on weakness rather than remaining strengths can have harmful implications. They can mean a resident’s choices aren’t respected and often cultivate a culture of blame, stigma and discrimination. It can change how a person with dementia is treated and cared for.

Luckily, the reverse is also true. We are seeing the difference that a focus on person-centred language can make in dementia care.

Consider, for example, a long-term care resident who screams and pushes staff away while being bathed. Rather than describing that person as resistant to care, what if we instead spoke about and addressed their fear, discomfort and need for protection in an unfamiliar situation?

A shift in the words we use can influence our thinking, and in turn change how we approach care. We’ve seen significant improvement with person-centred language and we’ve seen a real willingness on the part of seniors’ care staff to adopt this approach. With a reframed outlook on responsive behaviours, staff members become advocates for residents. They even challenge each other when they hear stigmatizing language being used. Actions change.

Knowledge translation is an evolving process used to create tools and strategies that support practice change. Think Research’s newly revamped Responsive Behaviours CST intentionally includes person-centred language as a core focus. The CST tools’ content continues to align with the P.I.E.C.E.S.™ framework, and have been updated to incorporate language from the new Behaviour Supports Ontario – Dementia Observation System (BSO-DOS©).

The new CST is invaluable for homes that want to adopt or reinforce a person-centred approach to dementia care. I was pleased to join a recent webinar as a guest speaker to introduce this important tool. I would encourage you to learn more about how the tools can help staff effectively assess and respond to responsive behaviours by watching the presentation

For more information or to adopt the Responsive Behaviours CST for your home click here.