“Coffee may heighten Alzheimer’s symptoms.” That’s the scary headline of a recent McKnight’s article, and I suspect the readership needle on the web traffic meter is jumping wildly and in the red.
Here’s what I’ve learned from doing all this long-term care writing over the past 20 years. Political topics can be a little risky. Commenters can get a little touchy. And anything involving coffee will be a sure-fire hit.
For instance, were I to write an article headlined, “Radioactive squirrels running amok in America’s nursing homes,” the McKnight’s audience would probably yawn and go back to memorizing the Mega Rule. But with just a simple tweak, to something like “Radioactive squirrels running amok in America’s nursing homes — break room coffee unaffected,” the numbers would be insane.
I don’t have a researched or carefully considered explanation for why long-term care people love coffee-related writing so much. But I suspect it’s because they’re so desperate for things to read late at night when they can’t sleep from all the coffee they consume.
Facility staff appear to drink it from dawn to dusk, and once I saw an aide pushing a med cart with one hand and pulling a coffee-delivering IV stand with the other. Also, I did not actually see that, and it did not actually happen. But the point is that any chance I get, I’m going to write about coffee. And besides, you actually thought that scenario might have happened. Enough said.
So back to that new study about coffee and Alzheimer’s. I’m all for science — some of my best friends are science-ologists, or whatever you call them. But though I got only a C in high school chemistry, I’ve easily spotted a fatal flaw in the research.
The study’s authors include delusions, hallucinations, irritability, anxiety and depression as symptoms worsened by extended coffee consumption. The problem is that those are also exactly the same symptoms that I, and probably all other caffeine-craving humans, feel on one of those horrible mornings when we suddenly realize we’re out of coffee.
First comes denial, which for me manifests as a delusion that there might actually be a few stray beans hidden somewhere in the house. Next comes the hallucination that I’ve found them, followed by irritability that I was wrong, anxiety about what to do next, and a deep depression, darker than the darkest French roast, that’s rooted in the new reality of living an absurd and meaningless life without coffee.
Let me conclude by saying that I have nothing but the deepest respect for the scientific process, and for the incredible work done by tireless researchers and their selfless battalions of volunteer mice. But when the symptoms of drinking too much coffee are identical to the symptoms of not being able to get any, the entire study should be thrown out and a mistrial declared.
Then we, the jury, should all go out to coffee together.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.