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Geriatric Education Grant Will Focus Expertise on Vulnerable Elders
Carmel B. Dyer, M.D., director of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, is principal investigator for a new $650,000, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to form a Geriatric Education Center that will concentrate on vulnerable elderly people.
Sharon Ostwald, Ph.D., professor in the Center on Aging at The University of Texas School of Nursing, is co-principal investigator of the center's multi-disciplinary grant, which includes five schools within The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
The new center will be one of just 48 in the country.
"It's very exciting to be part of a national effort to educate members of different disciplines about geriatric issues," said Dyer, holder of the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Chair in Gerontology. "Beyond that, our center will be unique because of its focus to go beyond general geriatrics to the most vulnerable individuals."
Along with the medical school and nursing school, the center will include the UT Dental Branch, the UT School of Public Health and the UT School of Health Information Sciences. Faculty from the University of Houston's schools of Pharmacy and Social Work, as well as occupational and physical therapists at Texas Women's University, also are included in the grant.
The center will train faculty, students and practicing professionals to provide the knowledge and skills to maintain healthier communities for the most vulnerable older people. The goal is to address issues of safety, medical care, economic and social support and disaster preparedness for this growing, fragile segment of the population.
"Elder abuse and exploitation remain largely hidden and undiagnosed problems in the elderly population," said Ostwald, holder of the Isla Carroll Turner Chair in Gerontological Nursing. "Our intent is to train health care professionals and others so that the problem is recognized early and treatment can be initiated, so elders can live in safer, healthier environments."
"Increased community organization and sensitization of health care teams are needed to assess vulnerability and recognize and intervene in cases of elder mistreatment and elder self-neglect," said Dyer, author of a recent article on elder self-neglect in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In the community, the Geriatric Education Center will provide continuing education to adult protection staff, nursing home inspectors, staff and volunteer long-term care ombudsmen, local police and sheriff departments, financial planners, guardians, elder-law attorneys and family caregivers - all of whom are in unique positions to identify and refer vulnerable elderly into the health care system.
The curriculum will include didactic and experimental training, Web-based modules and hands-on experience in nursing homes, chronic and acute disease hospitals, ambulatory care centers and senior centers.
By Deborah Mann Lake, Institutional Advancement
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