Transcript

Judy Woodruff: Carey Candrian is a Colorado-based social scientist. She’s spent much of her career investigating how health care can be compromised if an open discussion with patients about what and who matters most to them is avoided.

Tonight, she offers her Brief But Spectacular take on reimagining the language we use in health care, especially around elderly LGBTQ members.

Carey Candrian: Think about the script we all get in health care. Are you married? Do you have kids?

And now think how isolating and silencing that script can be when you don’t fit. I think the language we use around health care needs to be reimagined.

Dealing with a health crisis is hard for everyone, but it is even hard fore LGBT seniors. If you think of our forms, our intake questions, our admission questions, they are all critical in medicine because they really tell us who a patient is, what they want, what they don’t want, who they want in the room.

And the challenges is, is that our questions and our forms are so scripted that they are limiting. Do you come out and risk being treated poorly, or do you stay silent and hide a fundamental part of who you are? That is a heck of a choice.

So, our other option is that we break these scripts, we open them up in a way that gives people space to answer in a way that fits them.

I got into a major communication pretty randomly. It was the first day of class, and it was a large lecture hall. And the professor got up the first day and said, people are not the problem. It’s the way people talk that’s the problem. And if you want to change culture, you need to give people a new vocabulary.

And so I really felt like I could do something about that with a degree in communication. Currently, there are 2.4 million LGBT seniors in this country. And nearly half, 48 percent of them, have not shared that with their doctors, people who grew up when it was basically unthinkable and dangerous to be LGBT.

So, to stay safe, they have spent years honing a habit of silence about a fundamental part of their identity. And research shows that the stress from hiding can take up to 12 years of their life. It’s hard to break these scripts when you are fine and even harder when you have faced this lifetime of training to be silent, and knowing that you do risk being treated poorly if you do come out.

Even just the not asking, are you married? Who’s the biggest support in your life? Who do you want to have in the room? I mean, these — just any slight change to know that that it will be OK, that you can trust this person, that you can be safe with sharing this information goes a really long way and makes a huge impact for the LGBT community.

I see a lot of myself in the people that I work with, because I am one of them. And I think it does matter, to a certain degree, because you do become deeply connected in wanting to do this work and also wanting to do this work that actually leads to change.

People say, we are inclusive. We treat everyone the same.

We should never want to treat everyone the same, because we aren’t all the same.

My name is Carey Candrian, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on breaking the script in health care.

Judy Woodruff: Something we all need to think more about.

And you can find all of our Brief But Spectaculars at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.