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E24: Your Words Matter

Today we're covering the importance of language in healthcare, specifically for house call dentistry. As a dentist, I believe that the way we communicate with our patients is crucial in demonstrating respect and empathy towards them. In this episode, I'll be discussing two areas of communication that I feel strongly about - people-first language and elderspeak.

People-first language is all about referring to a person's disability as a noun, rather than using it as an adjective. For example, instead of saying "my autistic patient," we should say "my patient with autism." This shows that the disability is just one aspect of the person, rather than defining them entirely. It's also important to avoid using outdated terms like "handicapped" or "retarded," which are now considered offensive.

Elderspeak is another area of communication that we should avoid at all costs. This refers to speaking to older adults in a condescending way, assuming that they are incompetent or have a disability. For example, using inappropriate greetings or phrases like "sweetheart" or "hunny," or speaking to them like children. We should treat older adults with the respect they deserve and avoid using terms like "geriatric" or "senior citizen," which can be offensive.

Finally, we should also be mindful of the words we use to describe healthcare facilities. Instead of using terms like "nursing home" or "clinic," we should refer to them as "communities" or "health centers." This shows that these facilities are places where people can come together and receive care, rather than just clinical settings.

The way we choose to speak is very telling and can demonstrate our values. By using people-first language, avoiding elderspeak, and being mindful of the words we use to describe healthcare facilities, we can show respect and empathy towards our patients and their families. Let's strive to communicate in a way that empowers and uplifts those around us. Thank you for listening I hope this episode is both helpful and encouraging. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to reach out at

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