Clients or Customers or …

At Support For Home, we are members of the National Private Duty Association (NPDA).  There is great communication among the members on a wide variety of issues.  NPDA is a great association that works very hard to make all of its members and home care, in general, better.

A recent theme that members have been exchanging information and opinions on was driven by the question, “do you refer to the families you care for as clients, patients, residents, consumers or another title[?]”  This may sound trivial to some folks, but it really reflects the respect of the member agencies in NPDA for the people we serve.

A tremendous response came back from Jason Tweed, of Leading Home Care.  Jason is one of the leading consultants in the industry, but he is also a customer of home care providers.  Jason graciously allowed me to include that response in this blog:


 I’ve been an avid reader of this forum for awhile, but this is my first response.

As many of you know I’m a consultant for the home care industry, but also a user of home care services. I’ve used a wheelchair my entire life and purchase (through the Medicaid Waiver program in PA) about 55 hours of service weekly.

Here is my perspective on what we are called. Please know this is not definitive, this is simply one person’s opinion.

My favorite is “customer”. I’m a purchaser of service. In every other industry I would be called a customer.

“Client” is also accurate. I make purchasing decisions, however, ultimately I only pay a portion. I understand that people typically associate “customer” with the payment source. My opinion is that the customer is the chooser of service. If you buy tires, you are the customer, although MasterCard may be the payer.

“Consumer” is disempowering to me. Partially because it’s a term I’ve been called my entire life. It’s used frequently by state and federal agencies to describe recipients of various welfare programs. Granted, Medicaid Waiver is a form of welfare for which I’m eligible, however anyone who saw my tax bill last year knows that I’m contributing my fair share. Consumer is probably the most common term for Medicaid clients, however I would limit use of the term to conversations with state agency reps.

“Patient” is completely inaccurate for me. Last time I was hospitalized was in 1996. My doctor called to remind me I haven’t been in for a physical in over a year. (He told me I turned 40 and should come in. Did my warranty expire?) I take no medication related to my personal care. The only prescriptions I’ve been written in the past few years is a prescription for wheelchair repair (don’t ask me why I need a prescription for a mechanic) and one for external catheters that I’ve been using since 6th grade. If I’m a patient, most of the people reading this email are practically at death’s door. Yes, I have a severe disability, but as a parent of twins who survived the germ attack of them attending public school, I guarantee I’m healthier than most.

My personal choice is that you call me “Papa Jason”. My kids call me Papa. All the neighborhood kids know me as Papa Jason. I know dads in wheelchairs are scary looking, so I try to put them at ease by letting them call me Papa. My wife calls me “hunnie”, but unless you give me hugs, it’s off limits. I’m a father, business owner, tax payer, husband and owner of a Labrador retriever. I am proud of all of these titles.

I’ve also been called a few other names in my life, but mostly by people who have bruised shins from my footrests. (I said I was sorry.)

In summary, “customer” is most accurate. “Client” is acceptable. “Consumer” is ok. Please don’t call me a “patient” unless I am one at the time. Meanwhile, if you see me on the street, just say “hi Papa”.

Papa Jason

Jason Tweed

Jason and his father, Stephen Tweed, are exceptional people doing exceptional things to make our industry better.  To them and to all,

Best wishes, Bert


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