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Liar, liar: Many seniors fib about their capabilities after hospitalization

August 2, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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When doing assessments on residents recently arrived from the hospital, you might want to check to see if their pants are on fire. Many seniors would rather fib than admit their risks, especially if their capabilities have diminished since the hospital stay, according to a new analysis published in The Gerontologist.

“These patients want to return to a ‘normal’ pre-hospitalization life immediately, even if it is no longer possible,” said co-author Rachelle Hole, associate professor of social work at The University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus, in a university release about the study. While it’s a desire to reclaim the previous confidence and capabilities, it’s also an attempt to avoid appearing weak to others.

The study looked at adults with an average age of 82 who had recently been hospitalized for a heart-related event. Results showed a clear correlation between admitting health risks and feeling “disabled, incompetent and no longer independent.”

But if a resident’s perception of his or her abilities isn’t accurate, that skewed information could then be conveyed to caregivers or place the resident at risk of complications, relapse or even rehospitalization. “These findings suggest that the type of conversation healthcare providers have may significantly influence the patient’s well-being,” said study co-author Kathy Rush, associate professor of nursing at UBC, in the release. “Seniors equate risk with loss and it may be more beneficial to change the conversation to focus on strengths. It may also be useful to communicate standardized instructions with the family present to ensure a smooth transition.”

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