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Words of others

February 29, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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When I was growing up I was told, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." If I once believed that, I ceased to long ago. What we say has an impact on others. Since I have lived in nursing homes I have had many younger aides care for me and have learned a lot from them.

Most aides are millennials and they are not afraid to say what is on their minds. Sometimes their conversations are peppered with curse words. I know they do not mean anything by it. That is just the way they talk.

I try to edit my speech to fit my audience and try to stifle my cursing. When my niece was small, I censored myself. I knew she would hear bad words elsewhere, but I did not want her to remember them coming from my mouth.

Do not misunderstand. I occasionally drop an F-bomb just like everybody else. But I try to pay attention to where I am when it drops. I really think, as science has shown, curse words are stored in a different part of the brain. Then, our favorite ones come out when we are riled.

I imagine aides have been told not to use expletives around residents. But, when they occasionally do, I just ignore them. However, when an aide who worked here previously was carrying on a highly animated conversation with the F-bombs and other epithets flying, I wondered what visitors or others who heard her might think.

I guess I am somewhat prissy. I never thought it was cute to swear in front of others. I could never figure out what the swearers were trying to do. At first I thought they swore to show others their vast, rank word vocabulary. I always felt there was intention in cursing. When my older adult relatives spouted expletives, I felt intimidated.

One day when I was a child I said a bad word. I wish I could remember what word it was because my mother made me bite into half a bar of Ivory soap. Trying to get that soap out of my teeth afterwards had quite an impact on me. I knew not to say curse words in front of my mother soon again. Today, making a child chew up Ivory soap would be considered child abuse. But back then, it sent a message.

I think nursing home workers might want to remember they are guests in (the residents') home. I know some residents swear frequently while others curse only when they are angry. But, I think staff should try to refrain out of respect for their workplace. There are other words in the language which are almost as effective, that fall more trippingly off the tongue.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...