Why do some medical professionals and other caregivers talk to the elderly as though they are small children, even when their mental faculties are intact?
It’s a reflection of ageism, studies suggest. Those who talk to the elderly as children believe that elderly care is similar to child care. The more help the senior needs, the more baby talk they hear from such carers. However, research proves that the elderly is not well received when infantilized and patronized. It frustrates seniors and makes them see the caregiver as less capable.
Another situation is when the elderly can’t hear well enough. In such conditions, caretakers simplify their language and speak louder to communicate better. If you don’t have any problems hearing what they say, tell the carer there’s no need for them to speak like that.
The type of “baby talk” you’re referring to is typically reserved for young children. Still, sometimes it creeps into dialogue with people with disabilities or older people, particularly those with cognitive impairments. While it may not be on purpose, the “infantilization” reflects ageism at its core.
“Baby talk” directed to seniors is usually rooted in a perception that eldercare is equal to child care. In some cases, caregivers even adopt infantilized language based on the perceived level of incompetence of the senior. This kind of “baby talk” is not well received. Older adults prefer to be addressed like adults.
They’re not supposed to; at least there’s no written law for that. My guess is it’s a kind of method to create intimacy or gain trust. However, most older adults do not feel comfortable speaking to them with that tone or language. My mom’s cardiologist has this “annoying” habit, making her feel inadequate. But, people are different; some people may feel more comfortable with this method.
Caring for elderly parents isn’t very different from caring for kids, say family caregivers to their parents who are getting old. Researchers studied a sample of 426 adult caregiver-daughters to determine the predictors of such perceptions of parent care. The cognitive impairment of the elderly and the perceived burden of caregiving were the most significant indicators of this comparison of elder care to child care.
The first factor is a reaction to the inability of elders, which forces caretakers to undertake a directive, parental role.
The second element can reflect parental criticism; for example, severely stressed caregivers see parent care as kid care even in the absence of cognitive impairment in the seniors.
The findings show that when parents fail to display adult abilities, family caregivers consider parent care similar to child care. As a result, this judgment seems to be a “role breach” rather than “role reversal.”