Sticks and stones will break my bones….©

Last week we were on a wonderful family vacation to the beach……four sons, two daughters=in-law , six grandchildren and an extra teenager just for good measure! Hence no column last week.

This morning I’m trying to recover from a week of missed chores on the farm so I went back to look for a timeless column from my archives. Following is a sad one that I’m sad to say happened back in May of 2015 over another family vacation. Take heed:

I believe that some of the most untrue words we all learned as kids are “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me”! (Wikipedia says that “names” and “words” are interchangeable in that rhyme; when I press my senior mind back I can’t remember for the life of me which way I learned it). But either way, it’s an absolute falsehood.

The reason I bring it to your attention here is that I watched last week with horror as some senior acquaintances of mine have let their relationship totally unravel over a few poorly chosen words. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen and heard it firsthand.

Here’s how it rolled out. One partner of a senior couple sought respite help from the family for a week in order to get away for a brief, but much needed, summer vacation. The proposal was for the healthy, care-giving spouse to bring the other to the family for 10 days. The request was made a several months in advance of the proposed vacation so arrangements could be made….perhaps professional care-giving services such as Visiting Angels®, could be arranged if the family needed extra help in caring for the senior family member (a parent, suffering from dementia).

Somehow this request was totally misinterpreted and a fiery verbal response was delivered in such a way that inflicted damage far beyond what any sticks and stones could ever do. Think about it this way….. we can almost always recover from the wounds and bruises caused by sticks and stones. But the emotional pain and suffering from harsh words poorly chosen often goes with us to our grave. And this emotional damage can, as it has in the case I observed last week, actually result in physical setbacks for fragile seniors.

Life is built on a network of relationships. The most important of these relationships usually involve family, both immediate and extended. Those relationships are cultivated with words and actions. Usually, our actions are preceded by our words. Just a few poorly chosen or harshly spoken words can unravel a lifetime relationship in minutes.

Proverbs 15:1 puts it this way: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger”. And this anger can lead to devastating results…..I watched it happen last week.

The good news is that the opposite is also true as Proverbs 16:24 says: “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” I like the sound of that much better, don’t you?

If a senior tries your patience is this week, especially one with dementia, count to 10, take a deep breath or do whatever else your grandmother taught you to do so you can give an answer that’s ….”sweet to the soul” , and provides “health to the bones”.

Forget the “Words will never hurt me” nursery rhyme nonsense.

Thanks for reading All About Seniors…..See you next week!

Bill Milby is a Director of Visiting Angels® of Central Georgia, a non-medical, living assistance service for seniors. If you have questions or comments about this column you can reach him at

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