By Attorney David Engler
Have you ever taken an aged client or your parent to the Doctor’s office and the doctor or nurse refers them as sweetie or sugar or some other term of endearment?
I know the doctor is trying to show compassion and connection but the opposite often occurs. It is a way of saying I don’t take you all that seriously and need to address you in a patronizing way; seniors get offended by health care professionals who treat them like children. A male doctor would not refer to a 36-year-old female client as sweetie and he should not refer to an 83-year-old female any differently. It is the subtle use of words that convey a relationship that is not equal.
The people we bring to their doctors might be frail and fearful but most are of sound mind and understand that they are being talked about in their presence.
I am suggesting to all well-intentioned professionals to refer to the elderly in the more respectful manner of Mr., or Mrs. or by their first name if they have a solid relationship.
Never ask the son in the room if the Mom is acting confused when the Mom is sitting right there. It feeds into their sense of hopelessness that their guardian or child is the only one that can be trusted with medical questions. There may be a time for such questions but they should be done outside of the presence of the patient.
You might order your eggs at a roadside diner and call the waitress sweetie, but you should never call an aged patient sweetie. They know as much about their condition as the doctor does and they have seen more of life, like the ravages of war, like raising a family, or making tough decisions at work. Always err on the side of treating our elders with respect.