The Menu Is Not The Meal
There is a transformative power to language, to the words we choose, to the verbal expression of our thoughts and ideas. Word choices make such a deep impact on both the speaker and the listener. I see this every day. I bet you do too.
Each time I substitute the world elder for resident or patient it moves me forward just a tiny bit. I like to think that I am not guilty of ever having referred to someone by his or her diagnosis, “the diabetic”, “the renal failure” or “the CVA”. But I do know I have been guilty of referring to a fellow human being as a room number, “310 A needs a pain med”.
The use of the term care partner has completely captured me. This particular phrase is backed by such empowerment. When we use care partner to refer to an elder it implies collaboration instead of subservience. When we use care partner to refer to a member of the staff it suggests a level playing field instead of authority. Wherever we use this term, with family or volunteers, administrators or physicians it sets the table for cooperation and mutual respect. That is the transformative power of language.
However, as Alan A. Watts said, “The menu is not the meal”. The use of the words alone will never be enough. It will never suffice to use the word napkin instead of bib, if we do nothing else to bring convivium to a meal. It is not enough to substitute the word home for unit if it does not feel, look or smell like a home. The menu is not the meal. The menu is merely words on a page, the meal is nourishing and sustaining and it is the meal that we want when we read the menu.
How can get from menu to meal? In the beginning we can make small changes in behaviors and practices that will lead to small rewards. I am a follower of a personal trainer whose formula is Big Change=Small Actions+Time. I know that we are all growing impatient for Big Change, right now. I certainly am. It is already too late for my parents but it may not be too late for yours. You are hungry for person-centered care right here, right now.
What is the next step for culture change? I propose that it circles right back to that transformative power of language, to our ability to communicate our vision to our friends, neighbors and family members. But how do we also drive home our message to community leaders, to the economists, to the legislators and regulators? Which words are the most powerful? What medium is most effective?
I am looking for suggestions, or success stories, from the readers of this blog on what works. I hope that you will post comments that will help me, and others like me, to move this campaign forward at a faster clip.
I am hungry and no longer satisfied with reading the menu!