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By Tyra Oldham, PhD, MBA

Do you think about care words and their impact? Think about how the words make you feel and respond to them to transmit care. Care words are powerful and bring about emotions, imagination, fear, creativity, anger, and a reaction affecting the patient and family. Care words detail and connect symptoms that require steps in the care process. In the care process, you are told someone is sick. The next step is to hear what care is needed, such as additional follow-up, medicines, surgery, or rest. For many care, words can be overwhelming when you hear “Cancer,” “Dementia,” “Stage Four,” “Disease,” “Hospice,” and “Terminal.” Care words between doctor and patient or family member to loved one require management, time to digest, and following some action of care.

Care words can be powerful and emblematic of the degree of care required. Despite the words, the caregiver or the family member responsible for making medical decisions will undoubtedly assign an emotion or feeling to the care words, which can create complexity within decision making. One solution is to hear the words and refrain from assigning negative or positive associations. Listen to the words and seek information to effectively deliver a care decision that supports the best care plan moving forward for all involved.

It is challenging to step back and remain neutral or objective during emergencies or the most challenging times in life. No one is truly objective or detached from the experiences and knowledge the person has acquired. I propose the subjective-objective approach. Being subjective-objective allows the person to understand the situation, rely on experiences, and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses while allowing for feelings. Further, if you believe in a higher power, praying on the care words clarifies and will enable one to manage the moments. 

When I heard the doctor say, “Your mother has cancer, stage four.” My mind went straight to death and final days, yet, despite the words, my next step was to proceed to intervention and find solutions with the doctor. These thoughts occurred in less than one minute of digesting these care words. Often people reach out and ask me questions about care situations. 

Recently, a wonderful woman called me to share her concern with her mom. She asked me about hospice care for her mom and the transition from the hospital. My advice was to remove the words and be objective and consider supportive advice. I shared that hospice is not a place for people for comfort before death but is also a place for specialized care beyond that of the family and the hospital. Moreover, patients can come home from hospice, but no matter their length of stay, the goal is to make her mother comfortable and take care of the business of life that requires attention now, and preparing for the things aftercare is no longer necessary. What I share are words of care and encouragement. 

Care words are so important in any stage of caregiving that they must be valued and used to maintain good care for the entire family. Take time to hear and listen to care words to make the best care decisions that assist in delivering beneficial and appreciative care. Never let the words distract from the necessary care needed for the best quality of life.

For more information on care support and caregiving advice, write or email the “Care Corner.” Want to discuss care? Care Corner is that place to talk care, address questions for current and potential caregivers, and provide suggestions on agencies, services, and tips to assist in a care journey. (Read more of the article from the Herald Newspaper– subscribe now

The Care Corner is for everyone, no matter their age or process in care. For more information on caregiving, send your questions to Care Corner at the Cincinnati Herald or via email at

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