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Stay positive: Use of language in dementia research

Date: 04 June 2016

Category: Dementia

Researcher taking notes

Researchers can have such a positive impact on people living with any disease. Researchers give people hope. However, the positive effect can be cancelled out if negative images and language appear in the reports produced.

Words matter and are a powerful medium that can change the well-being of people. As someone living with dementia, I don’t want to read a report which implies how much of a 'burden' we are or how ‘challenging our behaviour is’ for loved ones. If 'carers' and healthcare professionals continually see this type of language, there's no doubt they will think this is an inevitability of the disease.

On the flip side of the coin, if they were to see documents and research on 'How best to understand and support a loved one with dementia’, rather than 'How best to cope with challenging behaviour' - wouldn't this affect the way they think of dementia in a more positive way?

Language is so key in affecting people's reaction to a situation, for both healthcare professionals and the public alike. If staff had more awareness and understanding of why someone is behaving in such a way, that behaviour might not occur in the first place.

Some people have questioned our insistence on promoting the notion that living well and positive language is possible, as this detracts from the struggles we experience. My answer to those critics is that we have no control over how our disease progresses - we know it’s not a good outcome, so why dwell on something over which we have no control. Why not instead focus on the positives to make this bummer of an existence, as good as we possibly can and focus on living as well as we can.

Remember, words matter……

  • Summary:

    Researchers give people hope. However, the positive effect can be cancelled out if negative images and language appear in the reports produced.

About the author

Wendy Mitchell

Patient

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