I have worked in many areas of the care field, including nursing older people, psychiatric clients and young adults with moderate learning disabilities. The one
thing I have noticed when working with these client groups is that some nurses seem to think it is OK to talk to them in patronising baby babble.
These people, despite their age or disability, are adults and should be addressed as such. How often I have heard a nurse say, ‘there’s a good girl’ or ‘there’s a dear’ to a person who is well into their 70s.
I agree these people should be praised when they have achieved something. Even taking a few steps may be an extreme effort for some and, yes, words of encouragement or a delighted facial expression should reflect this achievement.
But we all have to remember that whatever a person’s medical, mental or physical disability, they are still human beings. I have frequently had to interrupt when I see a wheelchair user being pushed by a nurse who is ignoring them and talking to their carer instead. When I worked with wheelchair users, I always made a point of coming down to their level, maybe touching their hand or arm, and asking them how they were. Only after that, would I ask them if it was OK to talk to their carer.
Some people who have severe disabilities may appear as though they do not understand the world around them. However, it is important to realise that most of the time they can hear and feel everything that goes on and are much affected by this.
Nursing and care staff should, wherever possible, get to know the client as an individual and find out how best to communicate with them in a manner that does not patronise. Try to imagine how
you, as a mature adult, would feel if you were told, ‘there’s
a good girl’.
Wouldn’t you just want to scream?
Suzanne Bordiak, bank nurse, Bedfordshire