Words matter. It’s amazing to me that today some still use the “F word” to describe where we work. “Facility” is such a cold harsh word and yet, for some, it’s still tossed around without a second thought. 

If we in long-term care want to truly be recognized for the amazing work we do, we must consider how we describe ourselves to each other and to those who are outside our field. Daily, I’m surprised at how often the word “facility” or worse, “institution,” slips in. I discreetly try to influence the use of this word as often as possible, but I’m constantly surprised how those in our field continue to use it. 

Ask yourself this, would you want to live here? 



  1. a place, amenity, or piece of equipment provided for a particular purpose.

If we expect to be treated by those who regulate our field like the actual homes we are, we must describe ourselves appropriately. It’s also interesting to me how we try to soften things by saying “home-like” or “homey.” We are very much HOME to those who live in our communities, not just a facility. We must recognize that even when others do not. 

How do you live in your home? 

During a leadership discussion today, our team reflected on significant changes over the last decade. We have come so far, but we have had major setbacks during the last few years. Re-institutionalization is a real thing that must be addressed. It’s also quite surprising how many team members started after March 13, 2020 (the day COVID closed our doors). Doing this exercise, personally, I’ve been reminded we need to retell, reset and re-energize our work. A great place to start is with the words we use and the words we shouldn’t use!

We do not work in a facility. We get to work in other people’s homes. Approaching our work in this way is a necessary, deliberate mindshift. For a few years, resident choice was taken away in many ways (the guilt that still surrounds that is a topic for another day). It is our responsibility to create HOME for those we serve, and that starts with the words we use. 

It’s just a word. 

I can already hear people argue or not consider this to be important at all. Many of us have already banned the “F word” and corrected it right away when heard, but there are some who continue to use it without a second thought. I would suggest if we can’t get behind describing our work for what it is and should be, how can we be offended when those who regulate, report or criticize use the exact same words? Check out most headlines, “Six nursing home facilities….” “Care facilities…” “Local facility…”

We are our own worst enemy. Ever heard that expression?

If we keep using the “F word” — facility — attitudes within and outside our world will not change. 

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Julie Thorson is a past recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. She currently facilitates LeadingAge Iowa’s Leadership Academy. She is a LeadingAge Academy fellow and former coach. The Head Coach (president and CEO) of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and an alumna of LeadingAge’s Leadership Educator Program.

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