Gary Tetz

Hostile attitude when young linked to memory problems later in life.

When I ran across that headline a while back from an allegedly reputable source, I almost threw something. And not because it’s not true, as it probably is. The study was published in the journal Neurology, after all, which sounds awfully sciencey and credible to me.

Apparently a bunch of 25-year-olds were asked questions designed to measure levels of hostility, aggressive behavior, mistrust of others and coping skills. Then researchers circled back when they were 50 to torment them again with memory tests.

Long study short, participants who had the most hostility and difficulty coping with stress as young people didn’t remember things as well as those with the least.

Having digested this troubling information, my concerns are twofold — professional and personal.

Within a facility, we should avoid taking that research and using it as a misguided ice-breaker. “Hi, Bob. I see in my notes you have memory issues. You must have been a real jerk when you were 25,” you should not say to your new resident in the first get-to-know-you session.

That’s not evidence-based practice, and it’s frowned upon under the Patient-Driven Panic Model (PDPM).

Actually, you probably shouldn’t say anything about the study at all, because at this point, even if he actually was a hostile and stress-riddled youth, there’s nothing Bob and his memory loss can do about it now. Which leads me to my second issue.

I’m getting tired of scientists identifying things that Young Oblivious Gary might have done to undermine or destroy his future health when it’s too late for Old Gary to counteract them.

In this case, the study sent me down a rabbit hole of self-questioning. Was a hostile child? I don’t know, and can’t remember — which, inferring from the research, answers the question in terrifying fashion. And if I was hostile, why won’t family and friends be honest with me? Maybe because I was so hostile no one will tell me about it, for fear I might lash out? That’s just sad.

On the other hand, I grew up mostly in Canada through those formative years, where hostility is defined as only saying “sorry” four times instead of six after accidentally almost nearly mildly inconveniencing someone. So by that standard, the entire population over age 50 up there is suffering crippling memory loss.

In the absence of other clues to my childhood moods and behavior, I’m going to do what I do best after reading an article like this — try to ignore it. Do I need to be reminded of more things I should have done differently, but can’t change? I say no. Is my guilt and regret not sufficient punishment? Yes.

Let me conclude by sharing a message with all those insensitive, counterproductive researchers out there. I did the best I could at the time. So unless you can help me time travel and alter my childhood attitudes and habits, go find a 25-year-old to talk to and leave me alone.

What’s that? First you need to tell me about another study you’ve done? It’s about infant binky use being linked to baldness? Now you’ve gone too far.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.