Shushing

Question:

Is it abuse in a nursing home type setting to shush an elderly person?

Signed,

Hush Yo Mouth


Answer:

Dear Hush Yo Mouth:

Shush? Shush to an elder in a nursing home setting? The answer to your question, that is one of the most briefly stated we’ve gotten from the thousands we have answered, most likely depends on the tone of shush and the other efforts made to quiet an elderly individual. “Shush, honey, the other patients can’t sleep with you talking ” might be a reasonable and sensitive effort to deal with an elderly one who didn’t realize or resisted other means to stop loud talk. It’s impossible to say shush is or isn’t abuse from the little information provided as to the context and motivation for shushing. Is not the criteria for determining if shush is abuse whether its use lacks respect for the elderly to whom it is directed and consideration for those who are bothered by the individual who is not quiet? I don’t know what prompts your question, but I guess that either you shushed a patient and were told it was abuse to do that or that you witnessed a coworker or someone where you are employed shush a patient and that you feel it was abuse in the way it was done.

What will you do were the Workplace Doctor to say it is not abuse? Argue with whomever criticized you for shushing and say the Workplace Doctor proves you are in the right? Or if the Workplace Doctor said it is abuse would you have evidence to tell the individual who did the shushing the Doctor said it is abuse, so, “Stop it”? My point is this: you are to be congratulated if you raise this question because you want caretakers to be kind and considerate of the elderly, even when an effort is made to quiet a loud or overly talkative elderly individual within the hearing of other elderly who might be bothered. But don’t become obsessed with whether a particular word is abusive; rather commit your self to delivering quality care and with communication that entails a gentle or firm tone and nonverbal gesture, whatever is appropriate.

I’m sure that your question doesn’t spring from an isolated incident. The shushing in your question, you say, is within a nursing home setting; therefore, honor the guidelines of that institution. Surely there are guidelines that specify that respect is the rule for communication when caring for the elderly. Don’t argue over words, but talk about how to satisfy the needs of your elderly and make their remaining years and days the very best possible. Possibly you might see that in the meaning of my signature advice: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. The spirit of a shush for an elderly person might be a purposeful as for a baby: “Hush, little baby don’t you cry, mama’s gonna’ sing you a lullaby.”

William Gorden