All About Person Centered Language (PCL) in Long-Term Care (LTC)

by E.S., Placement Student

All About Person Centered Language (PCL) in Long-Term Care (LTC)

Person Centered Language ‘refers to using language that puts the person first rather than the disease, symptoms or conditions that they may have’. The main focus of PCL is that what we say and how we say it matters.

The language we use effects peoples thoughts, feelings and actions and can unintentionally reinforce negative stigma. Using PCL in LTC would mean that rather than focusing on residents disabilities there is a focus on their strengths and abilities. An example would be describing someone with dementia as senile. This makes the person out to be just their disease and can make them feel dehumanized. Using PCL can overall lead to providing better care to residents and creating an environment where they feel safe, understood, honoured and dignified.

Here is a list of common words used in long term care and the person centered language option that could be used instead:

Common words used in LTC

PCL option

Institution or Facility

Long Term Care Home

Unit or Wing


Patient or Client



Support at meal time


Support in the washroom

Aggressive or difficult

Responsive Behaviours or Personal Expressions


Support with bathing

Here is some food for thought on PCL. Think of the words institution and home. What comes to mind when you hear institution? Typically it would make one think of being restricted or locked in place. On the other hand, what comes to mind when you hear the word home? For many it’s associated with belonging, community and family. Where would you rather live?

The Centers for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI) has the four commitments that come along with engaging in person centered language and how you can incorporate them into your work:

  1. See the person first: remember that everyone has different values, cultures, routines and lived experiences. Try to learn about the residents you are caring for by asking them and/or their family questions about themselves
  2. Commit to building trusting relationships: include the resident and their care partners in the conversation about their care
  3. Consider all forms of communication: learn about any resident health conditions and how this may affect how they are able to communicate. This will help you to gain awareness about their different forms of communication which may be verbal or non-verbal
  4. Advocate for person-centered language: continue to think about PCL in your work and promote this among your teammate and the families involved in the care of those living in LTC

It is important to remember that we are all still human and we cannot expect to be perfect all the time. Perfection is not the key to PCL. It is about making the conscious effort to truly understand how the language we use can negatively affect those around us and the ways in which we can change our language in order to not stigmatize those we care for. This won’t happen over-night and mistakes will be made however, what truly matters is that you are actively trying.

The CLRI has may resources on PCL in long-term care and even a pledge that can be completed on your own or with your team which can be found at the links down below:

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