What lurks in long-term care residents' minds

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Chance of a senior developing Alzheimer's has dropped 44% over the last 30 years
Chance of a senior developing Alzheimer's has dropped 44% over the last 30 years
The first rule of any debate, or “heated” discussion, is to know your definitions. If you don't know the precise parameters of what you — and any would-be opponent — are supposed to be talking about, not much else matters.

With caregiving, it comes down to knowing your people. For managers, this means your employees — their likes and dislikes; where their skill strengths lay; how they're likely to respond in pressure-filled times; and so on.

With caregiving, it also really comes down to knowing your residents' likes and dislikes, tendencies, histories and sources of motivation. If you do, you're going to be that much better off. And so will they.

That's why I found the results of a Harris Interactive survey that were released last week so interesting. Did you know that more than 2 in 5 (41%) of the 1,000 Americans surveyed said they were most afraid of developing cancer? Or that nearly one-third (31%) said the possibility of developing Alzheimer's disease was their biggest dread?

Personally, I would have thought those two would have been flip-flopped, with most people fearing Alzheimer's. But then again, I also would have thought the fear of having a stroke or developing heart disease would have been cited by more than 8% of respondents each.

Some of the survey's other findings might explain for some of the attitudes revealed: 62% of respondents said they knew little or nothing about Alzheimer's, and fewer than one in five (18%) had a care plan in case they developed it.

The 31% fear factor and 18% care plan element each are 50% increases over just a four-year span. That amounts to a lot of fear and ignorance about Alzheimer's, along with massive fear of cancer.

It is what is in the minds of the people walking or rolling down your halls every day — whether or not they actually have one of the conditions. If they don't have one, they might dread that they soon will, or they might be anxious about being around others who do.

Keeping this in mind while walking the halls could go a long way toward understanding your residents better. And that is a cornerstone of delivering better care.

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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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