Growing up in a strict Christian home, I was taught to always address my ” elders” as Mr. and Mrs.. I would have never thought to call Mr Jim Smith ” Jim”. By addressing them formally, it showed respect for their age and wisdom. It was also a sign of respect.
Yesterday, a young marketing representative came into my office and asked to speak to ” Mrs. Steele.” When I say young, I mean she was in her 30’s……. I stood up to acknowledge her and stated, ” Hi, I am Jessi”.
She quickly thanked me for taking the time to speak to her by saying'” It is so nice to meet you Mrs. Steele….”
Mrs. Steele. I don’t think I like the sound of that! I am simply Jessi!!!!!!! I am not that old , am I?????
After she left, I walked through the facility, speaking to every resident I encountered. ” Hi Mr. Jamison, hello Mrs. Davis; good to see you Mr. Mitchell; Hey Rita, you okay today? Good afternoon Toby; Hey Diane, what’s going on?” I continued on throughout the facility, calling each by name.
The more I have thought about it and listened to the staff interact with the residents, I heard things like :
“Come on Fred, you have to go the bathroom.”
“Evelyn, sit back down before you fall.”
“Ivy, drink your juice.”
“Peter, come back to the table”
The staff are simply doing their jobs, but the longer I listened, the more I thought on the importance of how we address our residents. We should never interact with them as if we are running a preschool or daycare center. These are men and women who should always be treated with respect, kindness and dignity. Dementia has robbed them of their identity, their person-hood and their ability to recognize their loved ones or even themselves.
So where is the fine line drawn between addressing the residents with respect, yet reminding them of their own identity?
” Good afternoon Sir”, clearly is not how to remind someone of who they are, yet it is very respectful.
” Good afternoon Mr. Evans” surely sounds better than ” Hey Fred”. But, how many people in Fred’s life addressed him as Mr. Evans?
How do people address you? Brian? Diane? Art? Steve? Barb? Dave? Jim? Your friends call you by name….Not Hey Mr. Hamilton, right? So, as you age into your eighties, how will the 20-30 somethings address you?
You have probably never been addressed as your Mr. or Mrs. name on a daily basis routinely, so why do we do it to the elderly dementia patients?
Respect is so important, an expectation I hold for every employee, but I want to also want what is best for the resident.
Thoughts anyone on this issue?