Don’t Talk Down to the Elderly


Letty Pogrebin in her book, How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick, gives advice on how to care for a sick friend. Her advice can be applied to all caregiving situations. One of her suggestions is:

“Don’t infantilize the patient. Never speak to a grown-up the way you’d talk to a child. Objectionable sentences include,

“How are we today, dearie?”

“That’s a good boy.”

“I bet you could swallow this teeny-tiny pill if you really tried.”

And most wince-worthy, “Are we ready to go wee-wee?”

Letty reminds us to the preserve the person’s dignity at all costs.

My mother, Ruby Marie George would agree with Letty:   When she was 90 years old she said to me, “Tell people to not talk down to older people or treat them like children. I need extra help, but that does not mean that I am mentally slow. I have lived and learned for 90 years. I have opinions, likes and dislikes. I am still a person!”

Preserve the dignity of each person.

Photo credit: harmon

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