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Carefully Choose Your Words

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Words are important

During the last election and the early days of the Trump presidency we have heard from President Trump in almost daily tweets; it has been emphasized time and again, “words matter.” And even though the nursery rhyme clearly states “sticks and stones may break my bones…,” we all know words make a real difference – whether making a point or presenting an idea.

Words Have PowerOver the years continuing care retirement (Life Plan) communities have evolved.Many have morphed from a somewhat paternalistic organization which provides care to its more passive residents to an organization serving more empowered residents that desire a voice in the organization in which residents thrive rather than just survive. In order to emphasize a more progressive orientation, our word-choice must reflect that metamorphosis.


With the introduction of the hospitality model, we were faced with nomenclature that screams healthcare and illness. We talk about beds, units, and facilities. My god, who in the world aspires to live in a facility?!

So all staff members should be trained and encouraged to integrate a new nomenclature into their vocabulary. Habits die hard so the change may be difficult. Be sure that supervision and even evaluations hinge on staff use of the new terminology so that it becomes community-wide. A few important transitions in word usage appear below. The list is just representative, not inclusive of all the terms that need to be change in our communications with new prospective residents.


Say This

  • Residences; home
  • Community; neighborhood
  • Nursing level accommodations
  • Culinary services

Not This

  • Unit; bed; room
  • Facility; unit; wing
  • Skilled nursing facility
  • Food services
Train All Staff


Words also play a part in the prospective’s emotional response to your presentation; this emotional response effects how appealing your community appears to them. Train your staff words of empowerment that can be utilized within a conversation with prospective residents to enforce their sense of control and mastery over their lives. When considering a move to a Life Plan Community, many prospects struggle with the concept, thinking that such a move reduces their level of independence. Quite contrary to that thought, most of us in the industry suggest that a move to a Life Plan Community proactively plans for your future and extends your independence through later years. Be sure that your message conveys empowerment with words such as control, mastery, plan, or enhance. Example:“Mr. Gillespie, I hear your ongoing concern for your wife. I know that you have prided yourself on being a good provider for your family all of these years. Is one of the reasons you are considering this move, the provision of a stable future for your wife after your own death?”

Words do matter. They not only convey information, they create emotional responses and evoke mental images of a concept. Retirement DYNAMICS offers a comprehensive customer service training for your entire staff that entails language and the importance of word choice in presenting your community. We would enjoy the opportunity to share our training program with all shifts at your community.


Read our prior blog entries in this series:

  1. Enriched Experience
  2. Montage of Training

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