February 5, 2014 – I couldn’t agree more with Bruce Chernof, M.D., President and CEO of the Scan Foundation, when he says we need to change the conversation and lexicon of “long term care.” In his article Changing the Conversation: How Americans Talk, Think and Feel about Aging, Dr. Chernof notes, “In my 25 years in medicine I’ve never heard anyone describe themselves as a “functionally impaired patient with chronic multiple conditions,” a “long-term care recipient,” or a “dual eligible.” Yet these types of terms are used every day among health care professionals, policy wonks, and advocates to describe the very people on whose behalf we work. The result of using this vernacular is that we talk at people rather than with them, effectively turning living, breathing human beings into obscure concepts. Dehumanizing the most human of processes – namely, growing older with health needs – breeds fear and apathy among the public at best, and at worst, alienation from a health care system that is perceived as too cold to care, too complicated to understand, and nearly impossible to navigate.”
Dr. Chernoff recognized from research done by his organization that most people cannot picture themselves ever needing aging supports or services. Because of this disconnect, the conversation is usually about ‘them’ rather than ‘us’ — which always results in a different perspective. This differentiation impacts how services for the aging are discussed on Capitol Hill, in our hospitals and by other service providers. Having worked in the aging services field for over a decade, I agree that a lot of work needs to be done to change the way we think and talk about aging. There’s no denying that if we are lucky, we will all age and most of us will face some sort of health challenges. Let’s work together to improve our view on aging — for the benefit of all.
Copyright ©2014 Brenda Becker
Brenda Becker is the Vice-President of Marketing and Communications for Carroll Lutheran Village and The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT, a continuing care retirement community in Westminster, Maryland and a planned continuing care retirement community in Ellicott City, Maryland, respectively.