Nurses have been told they should not address patients as love or dearie as they are "inappropriate".
Under new guidance set out by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), elderly people should be asked how they prefer to be addressed in a bid to treat patients more "respectfully".
The watchdog produced Guidance for the Care of Older People after listening to elderly people's concerns about the health service.
The guide also advises nursing staff on basic elements of their job, including the importance of listening to patients and ensuring that older people receive fluids and are given help to eat.
Ruth Chauhan, project leader for the care of older people at the NMC, said: "Although most nurses know what they should be doing they do not always do it.
"Our own code is very clear that nurses should treat people as individuals and respect their dignity, which includes finding out what they would like to be called rather than just using terms of endearment."
Shadow health minister Anne Milton said: "This is ridiculous and does not do justice to nurses' professionalism and understanding of patients' needs."
"I think that this is absolutely appropriate and it has always been a source of annoyance to me to see an 18-year-old refer to a 90-year-old as 'dearie'; however, I think that the problem lies in the staffing of the elderly care facilities. The staff are often underpaid and underqualified people who haven't been given the same level of training as nurses. Perhaps we need to ensure that all carers are given a good level of basic training, including that which involves the dignity that clients are entitled to." - Lesley Williamson, Northumberland