Friday, May 25, 2012

Dementia Label Perceptions (Long-Term Care and Hospice Research, Alzheimer’s Video 3:41)

Many people have a need to label others. They struggle to ease the complexity of dealing with whole people by mentally putting them in a labeled box of who they think they are. They see someone for the first time and immediately begin to make judgments based on ethnicity, language, gender, religion, and other labels.

In work situations, labels can be particularly dangerous. A former school principal, I am aware that the most important influence for learning in any classroom is teacher expectations. The potential for doing damage to children is quite real when they are labeled negatively. Labels in the healthcare professions can also be damaging. Consider this research about perceptions resulting from labeling residents with dementia.

This study examined the labeling of nursing home and hospice residents, how it influenced employees’ perceptions, and how those perceptions could affect resident-caregiver interactions. Forty-three employees in various staff positions from a rural hospice and an urban nursing home were involved. Participants read a vignette based on a fictional resident’s behavior. They rated their perceptions of the behavior, indicating if and how they would report the event, and made recommendations for a possible course of action. Although the vignettes were the same, the fictional resident was labeled either as an Alzheimer’s resident in a specialized care unit or as a resident of a non-specialized long-term care unit.

Can you guess the results? If you guessed that the behavior of the resident labeled as an Alzheimer’s resident was perceived to be more problematic, inappropriate, and aggressive than the same behavior of the resident without the Alzheimer’s label, you would be right. Perceptions regarding a resident having Alzheimer’s disease were negative. Labels that interfere with impartial thinking of healthcare workers and others can be harmful to residents’ quality of life. The purpose of this post is to emphasize the importance of viewing people with dementia or any other disease as people first and not as disease labels.

In this video titled Live Outside the Stigma, Dr. Richard Taylor explains his personal life experiences and consequences of living with the myths and stigmas of dementia, probably the Alzheimer’s type.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.