90 Eheart and Power (2009) tell us, “It often takes serious effort to change habits of speech” (p.9) so let’s get on with it, let’s together do the hard work of improving our language and create one that is respectful and honoring, even loving, at all times to those we serve and to one another. Let’s use the power of language to create the culture we all want to live and work in.
91 Saying what we believe and believing what we say: The hard work to change language Judah Ronch and Galina Madjaroff Languages reflect the history of the times in which they were formed. For example, there was no word for computer until technology made it a reality. For example, “homeland security” is a new coinage using existing words put together in a new and intentional way that reflect the times we are living in. Our work is to change the values of the culture of nursing homes and the words that speak of these values, not merely to re-code speech while old values persist in the heart of the culture. We will not be able to “re-value” the nursing home (Ronch, 2003) by adding euphemisms to re-label medical model nursing homes and realistically expect that the cultures inside them will change. It will take time, a concerted effort and a sustainable plan to change each organization’s culture and its language, so that in each nursing home people “say what they mean and mean what they say.” Our first job is to clearly define what they must say, not what they may say. That will take a concerted effort to make the new language the high prestige way to speak in nursing homes that people will want to emulate. Prestige is one way a language remains resilient (Winnick, 2010). That matters because language change takes time. That means that new language has to become a part of measuring if the organization’s culture is totally aligned. Does the new language show up in individual, departmental and organizational performance metrics, and is it expressed in organizational vision, mission and values statements? Does the new language shape the organization’s metaphors to create and reinforce ways of thinking about the people who live, work and visit there? A major process will involve introducing new metaphors to take the place of the old ones. We have offered some examples in this paper that provide immediate opportunity. A critical transformation will involve re-aligning the “language of work” and “the language at work.” The language of formal and intimate domains will need to be synthesized into a high prestige vocabulary used by everyone in the nursing home so that everyday talk honors elders, people served of all ages and those who work there and what they do. In addition to the medically/scientifically based, highly measurable objective information we already document, we will need a more precise language that speaks of the psychosocial quality of each person’s experience. We believe that quality of life and quality of care are inseparable and that one language that has documentable concepts and terminology must
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- Fall '19
- Developmental disability, Mental retardation, Judah Ronch