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Reading the book
Blog post written by Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., MBP Consulting, LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Have you noticed since becoming a caregiver that your vocabulary has increased? Mine sure has! I have learned many new words including medical terms associated with my husband’s medical condition, names of his drugs — many of which I can’t even pronounce and words related to my caregiver role and responsibilities. I refer to my enhanced vocabulary as learning the caregiver alphabet soup. Your alphabet soup is different than mine but I’m sure we have some similar words. I could define different terms but probably wouldn’t define the one you need, so I’ll share the strategies I use when I am confronted with new terms. These strategies are so simple, yet it’s taken me a while to become comfortable using them.

The first strategy is to ask the person who uses it what it means. I believe that I am the consumer and my husband’s advocate so I do not need to apologize for asking questions. In some cases I have to ask them to explain their definition so I can understand it. It seems as if I encounter new terms when we are in new situations, like medical procedures, so of course I’m stressed out. When I’m stressed I find the need to slow doctors or professionals down so I can keep up with the vocabulary and I need them to explain it several times. At times I feel inadequate, but then realize that if I don’t understand fully what is being shared then problems arise at home. So – it’s in everyone’s best interest if I’m aware of what the various new terms mean.

Secondly, there is the internet but I want to caution you about taking everything as truth that you find on it. The internet is a great resource but we need to verify the information we find on it. The best way to find reliable information is to use only reputable web sites. Here are my criteria for identifying reputable web sites (which I learned from reading several articles on searching the internet for reliable sources):

  • Who created the site? I look at web sites only of reliable organizations. We may have different ideas about what is a reliable organization, but I tend to stick to information from universities, medical, disease, or illness specific groups, and government organizations. This means the website will end in edu, gov, or org.
  • Where did the information come from? Even on reliable websites it is necessary to know where they got the information. Do they use information from research or are they sharing their own experiences or ideas?
  • Who is the author of the information? Do they have credentials? Are they selling a product or service? What is their training?
  • Are there common themes, suggestions, and ideas that emerge? Do they site several research studies? Another way of finding this is, does the web site share similar information to other sites or are they saying something completely different?

These are just a few ideas on making sure the information from the web is reliable. Here are a few sites I find helpful:

Websites for specific caregiver types, diseases, illness:

Medical terminology


Since all of us are learning new terms please share the strategies you use to find definitions including web sites you find most helpful. Keep in mind there will always be new terms to learn regardless of how long you are a caregiver.

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This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on February 12, 2016.