I have always tried in life to get alongside people and not to judge them unnecessarily. I am currently working with someone, who I have described as ‘crusty’ to his son. He is a gruff, sometimes grumpy bloke, who doesn’t pull any punches if he is annoyed. Some on the team find that challenging, but I find his gruff exterior and his honesty refreshing. You always know how he feels. There is no guessing game involved with this guy.
We recently had a meeting where his son was present. During the meeting he used the ‘F’ word liberally. A member of my team commented to me that they felt that this was not appropriate. No.1 – I am not the language/sweary police! No.2 – I believe in working with people in a way that is comfortable for them. If they usually speak in a certain way, who am I to chastise an adult for how they speak? As I later said to them, when the subject came up ‘You can use any word and make it sound attacking’. For him he described use of the word as ‘punctuation’ and not meant to offend. It would have been quite different if he had used language in an attacking way. If he had done so, I would have requested he not speak to me in that way.
This started me thinking about how we communicate with others when we have this condition. Some may be able to ‘mind their P’s and Q’s’ and moderate their use of language for the most part. Others may not be so successful! Some may be able to contain their use of language that may offend others at times, other times it may be difficult to do so. In the ward where this situation arose – and obviously where I work – people come to the ward after a major health event, usually a stroke or some kind of brain bleed. They have been going about their normal lives when suddenly their ‘normal’ changes and their body behaves in ways they are not quite prepared for. I am sure, had this happened to most people, the odd (more than odd) swear word would escape their lips!
Nearly two years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This of course, is a major deal for me also. Not just for me, but for my family. It is an unwelcome change in course for my life and – although suspicious of it’s being my reality – not completely the way I imagined my life to be. I have always been reasonably articulate, both verbally and when I write. It has always been important to me. Words are powerful. They can make you feel powerful, but equally they can take away your power. Whatever, you may think of use of the ‘F’ word, sometimes it can be quite cathartic to have a bit of a swear fest! Even if no-one else is present, letting off steam and getting a big sweary can be a release, a way of expressing our emotions and frustrations that nothing else can do.
Just as I try to ‘cut my patients some slack’ in their use of language, I feel we should have the same luxury. If we need to swear to let off steam, there should be some allowance for the need for that to happen. I am not about to rip out a string of invective ‘Willy Nilly’ to all and sundry, but I may need to verbalize my frustration with words that others may find challenging.
I think given the cocktail of challenges we face; I think a bit of a swear from time to time is more than forgivable… it is almost essential!