Recently I had an interesting conversation with the Life Enrichment Director of a skilled care community where I work. We were discussing an upcoming presentation I was preparing for other elder care professionals, and we found ourselves getting tongue tied when trying to come up with a way to refer to the places where frail elders live and receive care. The names seemed either too clinical or too cumbersome.
For example: "Facility." We both bristled at the word, although it was the most efficient to say. We couldn't get past the inhumanity of it, though. A facility is a place where inanimate objects are stored, or where mechanical procedures are performed. A temporary storage facility. A glass recycling facility. How could we use that word to refer to a place where human beings lived and, if our work was to mean anything, thrived?
Then what about "Skilled Care Community?" Other than the fact that it takes too long to say, and is treacherously prone to being abbreviated and made into an acronym-word (SCC, pronounced "sick",) it just didn't strike us as descriptive of what this place should be. It describes some of the work done by the people employed at the place, but didn't seem to say anything about the experience of the elders who live there.
I came to the conclusion that day that we need to start a new movement -- a linguistic movement -- in elder care. We need to start the movement to take back the word "Home." "Home" fell out of favor a while ago as a reference to a place where elders live. It was, I think, overused as a euphemism for something awful, and became a code word for a dreary, depressing existence. The Home. Putting someone in the Home.
I think it is time we take back the original meaning of "Home." Home as a place where you go to receive comfort, acceptance and love. Home as your center, your touchstone. Home as a refuge from worry and a haven from trouble. Home, where the heart is.
If we are truly applying the principles of person-centered care, the places where elders live should truly be Homes. They should be populated with individuals whose mission is to respect each individual where and as they are. Each person should feel that they have a place in the functioning of the whole, like each member of a good family has a role in the functioning of their home. And, as with any true and loving home we visit, every person who visits or works in the Home would show respect for the public and private spaces.
So, starting today, I am beginning a campaign to reclaim the "Home." Let's take the euphemism out of the word and apply it truly and faithfully to those places where elders live and receive care. Let's use this word when we mean what we say -- not when we are trying to hide something unpleasant. Let's speak of and create Homes, places of security and comfort, for all the elders in our lives.