Medical schools across the country are increasingly focusing on teaching doctors how to better understand and relate to the people they will be caring for. With the aging of America and the exponential rise in Alzheimer’s, it’s crucial that doctors will be able to recognize the early signs of the disease as well as understand the varied needs of those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
Two things in particular are critical. First, that doctors can identify the disease in its early stages. This is particularly difficult in people who have a lifetime of accomplishments and social skills to draw upon.
Second is how to meet the needs of a population that can’t readily articulate for themselves if they’re in pain, what brings them joy, when they’re having a delusion or that the reason they’re not eating is that they’ve forgotten how to use their forks.
The first group of residents met with Erin Jones, Executive Director, who gave them an overview of our program and answered questions about dementia. Afterwards, they spent time on each of the floors with the residents, and participated in an activity with Lindsey Bretzman, Life Enrichment Director. Their next visit is set for November.
How did you think the visit went?
I thought it went great and I thank you. As Philippe Thuillier shared, when I asked his feedback, the visit was an “A”. Philippe is part of the core who designs the “Medical Student Learning Collaborative on Cognitive Impairment.” He was delighted and said that you are “a natural” in terms of engaging student interest and compassion as well as for breaking the ice for what can be a tense environment to enter. He pointed out that through all your anecdotes of the residents, we already “knew the people” when we met them. He said that you have “a magic” for making the group comfortable, because these (dementia, long term care, old age) are things we are uncomfortable about.
To improve, we thought it would be nice to have lunch with the residents. There isn’t a thing we’d change about the day, except wanting to have that engagement piece and perhaps lunch on the third floor, or wherever you think it would work with residents, would be great. He thought too, if it is not to disturbing for residents, the “challenges of the care worker” (especially at mealtimes) can be good to see/understand. (Also, as a side note, I felt like we were expecting a lot from you to be “on” that whole time…)
Linda and I suggested, and I don’t know what decision Philippe and team will make, that students not wear their white coats/not enter as doctors, but engage and learn as people, as the white coat (and you spoke well about this) changes things. We shall see what is decided on that.
So, great job, thank you and we will be in touch with student feedback and to set a date for November.
Senior Research Assistant
Layton Aging & Alzheimer’s Disease Center
Oregon Health & Science University
3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd. (CR131)
Portland, OR 97239