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Should care workers call residents 'sweetie' and 'love'?


Stephanie Kirkman Meikle, chief executive, Skills 4 Living Centre

Adult Social Care Inspector, Care Quality Commission

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A care home in Harrogate was criticised recently by the Care Quality Commission for using 'patronising' language to its residents who have learning disabilities, with staff referring to them as 'sweetie' and 'love'.

However, Stephanie Kirkman Meikle, chief executive for the charity Skills 4 Living Centre, which runs Brackenley care home, defended her staff, saying residents like the informal endearments.

Ms Kirkman Meikle said each resident’s individual care plan records how they like to be addressed. “We talk to every person, individually in a manner which meets their needs and suits their communication preferences. Certain people respond to certain pet names well and want us to use the terms of endearment appropriate to them.

“For example, one person likes staff who know him well to call him 'captain', but I wouldn't use this term. As a person who knows the gentleman from our adult education centre, I would call him by his christian name.”

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The CQC inspector criticised the care home staff for its endearments, saying 'However, throughout our visit we heard staff using terms such as ‘sweetie’, ‘darling’,‘handsome’ and 'love' when speaking to and about people who used the service.

'Although the language was meant to be friendly it could be regarded as demeaning and patronising.

'Relatives we spoke with told us they thought that staff usually spoke respectfully to people. However relatives also told us about other occasions which they had witnessed when staff had spoken inappropriately.'

Central to the CQC handbook ‘What standards you have a right to expect from your care home’ is the instruction that all communication with people using services must be respectful. Its inspection teams always seek feedback from residents and their relatives and take any accounts of reports of staff speaking inappropriately in any way very seriously.


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Joanna hayes

03 May 2017 4:40 PM

From my experience both as a caregiver and the daughter of an elderly mum, I am of the opinion that such terms as sweetie etc are unacceptable. We should not presume that because we are elderly/disabled that we need 'pet' names, however from a caregiver's perspective such terminology is meant as a term of endearment and not intended to patronise or belittle the people in their care. Above all any titles given should be of mutual agreement as clients are not merely passive receivers of the care we give.

Sue Maceachern

Sue Maceachern

24 Nov 2016 8:45 PM

People need to get a grip, to me someone is showing they care and make them feel loved, CQC has gone nuts.

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Issac Theophilos

11 Feb 2016 6:52 PM

Addressing the resident as they want is the key, whether it is Mr, Mrs or sweetheart. Hope the inspectors have taken this case individually. Calling our nan Mrs XYZ creates a barrier to care for her, the same principle applies here as well.

Hope the inspectors won't get tied up to this, as they have wider issues to address.


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Dreamer Ken

06 Oct 2015 5:50 PM

I thought CQC had gone past this kind of nonsense. The public sector are great at spending fortunes on compliance but terrible at paying a fair fee for the service. Disgraceful.

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lee fry

06 Oct 2015 4:56 PM

Common sense goes out of the window sometimes when CQC investigate. They have a format which can be black and white and doesn't consider common sense. Each individual is different and some like to be called by their name and others like being addressed in more "affectionate terms". I call my male friends "mate" and it isn't a problem. However it has to be recorded in the care plan how the person likes to be addressed.

Crystal Herring

Crystal Herring

06 Oct 2015 3:52 PM

I find that most elderly people like you being endearing towards them. They always say it makes them feel special and wanted, not a burden. Many of the ones I have visited in the past, or those I now care for in residential care, don't like it if care staff call them by their first names unless they specifically allow you to. As a way of compromise, it is easier to say "morning sweetheart (or whatever term of endearment) I'm ..." and then wait for them to reply and say "Hello ..., You can call me ...."

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Julie Hurst

06 Oct 2015 3:14 PM

People use endearments in every day life to each other and none more so than in Wales where I now live - it is so nice. These terms are meant in a kind, caring way and should not be misconstrued as 'wrong'. You're afraid to say anything these days without it being misinterpreted. What a world we live in!