These are the two most common words that I find associated with older people admitted to acute hospital care when they are delirious.

70, 80, 90-year-old, man or woman, it doesn’t really matter.

If you don’t agree, or accept what we are going to do with you, you are aggressive.

I probably read the word ‘aggressive’ at least once a week in patients’ notes.

Aggressive and violent – words that in reality only apply to drunk young to middle-aged men out and about on Saturday nights; them and the dope-fiends who are still trying to find a way out of the 1950’s.

Let’s think of some new, perhaps more appropriate, compassionate, terminology; let’s replace aggressive and violent with anxious and afraid. Let’s try and get inside the world of those older people who are in pain, who can’t see or hear properly, who are unwell, drugged-up and moved-around like cartons of wheat from ‘care’ repository to bed number one or two or three.

Let us lift our love-ones out of the morass of 21st Century care.

Let us listen.

Let us feel.

Published by rodkersh1948

Trying to understand the world, one emotion at a time.

2 thoughts on “Language!

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Rod!

    I love reading mine & my patients medical notes/letters. I find the language (often) used really curious and it would also kind of make me a bit sad too. It would make me feel unsettled that I’d have to re-read what I had just read.

    Words like she: “denies”, “allegedly”, “claims that”, etc… is language that is super loaded, that just reads like we’re on trial and everything you’re saying needs to be proven/not believed (not super sure how it would be proven).

    I’ve just started reading the book, “The Body In Pain”, which is a pretty complex text about pain and power. Scarry tries to talk about what physical pain is, and of how language is a poor instrument for describing or passing along accounts of the most personal and powerful of sensations. She argues that pain breaks down the world, and in doing so, that it reduces the body-in-the-world.

    A quote that stands out for me in relation to your post is when Scarry says: – “to have great pain is to have certainty; to hear that another person has pain is to have doubt.” – I feel like when words such as ” she claims that” and “person X is aggressive” – reminds me of the power of language, and how we communicate (in all ways!), and presents this off-balance power relationship between patient & HCP that often exists ( & the paper-trail we leave of it afterwards).

    I’m such a massive advocate for using compassionate terminology, and I’m so happy you’ve written about it so perfectly here and sharing it forwards to inspire others to. Let us listen. Let us feel, indeed. And always.


  2. Thanks Sarah, I can’t tell you how much it means to read your words;

    I agree it is painful – an assault to the eyes to read these things written by people who I know care very very much but who, through their engagement with a system that does what systems do – systematises, have their behaviours and intentions distorted.

    I’ll look-out Scarry’s book – thanks.

    I know you get it, but I don’t want people to think we are talking political correctness here – this is something deeper, much more profound; this is how we relate to one another as humans. It is mutual respect and kindness, compassion raw in tooth and claw.

    If you watch the video from my last blog with Reverend Ernest Levy – esp the bottom one, towards the end, I guess you might see one of my early influences.

    Be well and have a great weekend.


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