Looking at aged care services and the way they interact with their ‘care recipients’, what’s in a name? From ‘resident’ to ‘consumer’, to ‘customer’ and ‘client’… what do we call people receiving aged care services? Should people living in aged care services be called ‘consumers’?

Services should be asking themselves:
What type of experience do we want the people we provide services for to have?

How you interact with your the people we provide services for sets the tone of their experience, and with so much flux in the aged care environment, terminology is so important across your organisation. Names mean allot to older Australians and although ‘consumer’ is meant to feel more person-centred, feedback from consumers paints a different picture.

In terms of the feedback we get from those engaging in care and services, these terms come with their own sets of negative connotations. ‘Consumer’ is viewed as dehumanising. ‘Client’ is more professional rather than caring. ‘Customer’ is not a human reference rather a transactional reference. So, should people living in aged care services be called ‘consumers’?

Should people living in aged care services be called ‘consumers’?

Where possible, we try to refer to those we provide care and services for as people, but it doesn’t always work in context.

The Department use to use (and it’s still in the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth)) ‘care recipient’ and some services adopted that. This still sounds a tad dehumanising and doesn’t support the notation of care and services being directed by the person receiving them (or their decision maker).

The problem is that anything else that is used can be seen as labelling the person, and therefore potentially discriminatory.

We always use:
The person receiving xxxx care and services.

What’s in a name? – Quote by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. The phrase meaning that names themselves do not hold worth nor meaning, and they simply act as labels to distinguish one thing or person from another.

Terminology can have a massive impact on perception which is why it’s so important to always approach and engage with people with care and compassion. It’s less about what you call them but rather how you interact with them that makes all the difference.

So, for now, those providing care and services need to use the terminology their organisation has decided to use and, of course, when dealing with people directly, use their name.

Ideas on this topic are welcomed below in the comments …

What are your thoughts?