Addressing residents’ deepest fear

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


 Addressing residents’ deepest fear

In the TV show “Mad Men,” the Sterling Cooper advertising executives find out how consumers feel about the product they’re pitching by holding focus groups. They ask people who use their product what they like and don’t like about it, how they use it and what it means to them.

As a long-term care psychologist, one of my main tasks is to sit down and talk in-depth with residents on a regular basis. I’ve basically conducted 20 years of focus groups. The single most common comment I’ve heard from residents over the years: “I never thought I would end up in a place like this.”

While it’s probably not the case for people who entered swanky continuing care retirement communities of their own accord well in advance of a health crisis, many residents feel like it’s a personal failure to be in long-term care. They think if they’d done something different, or earned more money, or if they’d had children, or had a better relationship with their children, or if they had better children, or something, then they wouldn’t have “ended up” in a long-term care home.

As a psychologist, I assure them that they didn’t do anything wrong and neither did anyone else necessarily. I inform them that many of the nicest and best people I know are living in long-term care. Occasionally, I introduce one awesome person to another. In psychology terms, we call this “normalizing” the experience. It helps a lot.

Below are some ways in which you can allay the residents’ concerns that they have lost the game of life by being in your establishment:

• Include on your website stories of amazing residents. If that exemplary person can be there, potential residents will feel that it’s a club they might want to join too. Include not just individuals who have achieved a traditionally successful life (money, fame, education), but also those who have accomplished unusual feats (raised 11 children, sky-dived in their 70s) or who overcame poverty, prejudice, or disability to lead a good and decent life.

For the entire article, visit:

Addressing residents’ deepest fear

Cheerful Indian Senior Woman

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