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Office of Geriatrics and Interprofessional Aging Studies

Office of Geriatrics and
Interprofessional Aging Studies

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The Human Life Span

Dr. Douglas Crews, et. al., Professor of Anthropology at The Ohio State University, recently published Aging, Senescence and Human Variation in “Human Biology: An Evolutionary and Biocultural Perspective, Second Edition.”   In this chapter, Dr. Crews reviews the evolution of human lifespan within biological and cultural processes, senescence and aging research, and survival and longevity across populations, species, and sexes.  Did you know that humans are the longest - lived species within the order Primates? So, what is the difference between aging and senescence? In his book chapter, Dr. Crews defines aging saying that all things age whether they are alive or not, and is simply existence through time. He goes on to say that senescence occurs only in living organisms, and is a progressive degeneration that leads to an increased probability of mortality.  Explore Dr. Crews’ book chapter on aging and senescence further and find out why Dr. Crews believes that longer and more active life spans for the majority of the human population seem likely.

Addressing the Needs of Informal Caregivers

RFA-NR-13-001:  Addressing Needs of Informal Caregivers of Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease in the Context of Sociodemographic Factors (R01) The National Institute of Nursing Research seeks researchers interested in addressing the needs of informal caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias in the context of different sociodemographic factors. Research has demonstrated that sociodemographic factors (such as geography, socioeconomic status, education, culture, race, ethnicity, gender, and age) play a role in informal caregivers’ experiences in providing care for their loved one as well as in managing their own health and well-being. The purpose of this funding opportunity announcement is to 1) develop interventions that address the needs of these caregivers in the context of different sociodemographic factors, and 2) inform the search for such interventions by better understanding or describing the unique experiences, perceptions, knowledge, and caregiver outcomes based on different sociodemographic factors. For more information, click here and/or contact Lois A. Tully, PhD at (301) 594-5968 or via e-mail at tullyla@mail.nih.gov directly if you would like to discuss this RFA in greater detail. Please note that applications are due on or before September 14, 2012.

Spotlight On . . . Dr. Douglas Scharre

Dr. Douglas Scharre started his career at The Ohio State University Medical Center in 1993 when he joined the Department of Neurology.  He is a board certified neurologist, a clinical researcher and a master clinician regarding diagnosis and management of cognitive issues. His research focuses on early detection of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and dementia using cognitive evaluation and functional neuroimaging. During Dr. Scharre's tenure with OSU, he developed the SAGE Test, the self-administered cognitive assessment tool and the 4-Turn Test for assessment of driving abilities. He has conducted over 100 dementia related multi-center and investigator initiated clinical trials in the last 17 years that have been funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), foundations, and industry. He has many active grants including clinical drug trials using cognitive enhancers and behavioral therapies, functional neuroimaging studies using SPECT and MRI, use of deep brain stimulation to improve symptoms in Alzheimer's disease, and screening for mild cognitive impairment and early dementia diagnosis. Dr. Scharre currently maintains repositories for brain tissue, cerebrospinal fluid and serum (brain and biomarker banks) on dementia subjects that researchers can utilize.  He has also published multiple journal papers, book chapters, and abstracts on the topic of cognitive neurology.  In fact, his recent book on Long-Term Management of Dementia is a stand-alone resource for health care professionals who diagnose, treat, and manage patients suffering from dementia. Learn more about Dr. Scharre.

Dementia Caregiving Among Minority Caregivers

According to the Alzheimer’s Association (2011), deaths caused by Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) have been rising dramatically and are expected to continue to increase as the baby boom generation ages.  The older population is also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse as the overall minority population increases and experiences greater longevity (Administration on Aging, 2011).   This trend suggests that more minorities will be diagnosed with AD, which means more minorities will become caregivers.  In a recent grant proposal, Dr. Virginia Richardson and her colleagues will explore dementia caregiving among minority caregivers.  This study, “Perceptions of dementia caregivers among minority groups: Exploring similarities and differences using a mixed methods exploratory sequential design”, is funded by The Ohio State College of Social Work's Dean’s Fund.  Dr. Richardson and her team will interview dementia caregivers from African American, South Korean, and Hispanic backgrounds, as well as dementia caregivers from rural areas, and also caregivers who are gay men.  The research team will analyze the identification of themes, including similarities as well as differences, within and across the minority dementia caregivers mentioned above.  They expect the results of this study to lead to further research on this topic.  They also plan to share the study findings with community agencies so that these agencies might create more targeted and culturally-sensitive services for their older minority caregivers. For more information about this study, please contact Dr. Virginia Richardson.

Can Horses Help Dementia Patients?

We’ve all heard that there are benefits associated with working with animals for people who have a wide variety of physical and mental challenges, but did you know that this theory is being put to the test right here at The Ohio State University?  Dr. Holly Dabelko-Schoeny at the College of Social Work and Dr. Gwendolen Lorch at the School of Veterinary Medicine are currently collaborating on a research study of an equine Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) intervention program.  The pilot participants in this study are aging adults with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias from the Heritage Adult Day Health Center.  The actual intervention takes place at the Field of Dreams Equine Education Center.  Through this pilot, the researchers examine the psychological and behavioral symptoms of older adults with dementia during their participation in the program.  They also collect measurements that they hope will demonstrate benefits, such as improvement in social, emotional, and even cognitive functioning, of an equine AAT intervention program for older adults with dementia.  Learn more about this rearch.

Glasgow Coma Scale for Injured Elders

Dr.’s Jeffrey Caterino, Amy Raubenolt, and Michael Cudnik of the OSU Department of Emergency Medicine recently published an article on the Modification of Glasgow Coma Scale Criteria for Injured Elders in Acad Emerg Med. 2011 Oct;18(10):1014-21­.  Their objective was to determine if an abnormal field Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of ≤ 14 is an appropriate cut-off value to initiate transport to a trauma center for injured elderly patients.  This study was prompted by a recent change in Ohio policy that decreases the GCS score for transport of injured elderly patients to trauma centers.  Their findings support that this change is associated with a higher mortality rate in elderly patients who have a GCS 14 as opposed to a GCS 13.

Hope for the Aging Brain

Researchers at The Ohio State University, University of Oklahoma, and Bryn Mawr College have recently discovered that older adult’s brains don’t always slow down due to normal aging.  In fact, their research indicates that healthier older adults often emphasize accuracy over reaction time in making decisions about simple tasks.  Therefore slower response times are not always an indication of a decline in skills in healthier older adults.  Even better news is that simple task decision-making speed and accuracy can stay intact in older adults up to 85 to 90 years old.  This is good news for those of us who may be more advanced in our age, and all of us who are aging! Click here to learn more about this research.

 

An Intergenerational Center at OSU?

In keeping with the University’s mission to be recognized for the quality and impact of its research, teaching, and service, a discussion about a potential Intergenerational Center in conjunction with the University has been taking shape recently. Research, education and training would be the foundation of the program, fostering a high quality of care and improved quality of life for the children and adults served. Growth and education occur throughout the lifespan.  Imagine a place where:
  • Children and older adults are mixing cookie dough together at a communal kitchen table.
  • An older adult is rocking a toddler and reading stories, or planting vegetable seeds in the garden with a preschooler.
  • Your toddler receives instruction from OSU students who are interning in early childhood education under the supervision of OSU faculty.
  • Your father enjoys adult day programming and also receives his annual physical from a geriatric specialist who teaches health science students how to care for an aging population.
  • You could come for parenting classes to learn about the most recent childhood development strategies.
  • Interdisciplinary researchers and educators work together at an intergenerational site to advance knowledge across the lifespan – truly improving lives through research, teaching and service.
Picture a program in which the family needs of OSU faculty, staff and students might be addressed holistically in a home-like setting. The Center would be operated as a University/Community partnership and be viewed as a center of excellence in child and adult care, serving children, adults and caregivers throughout the University community and Central Ohio. Read the Vision Statement here. Several steps have been taken to test the perceived need and the viability of such a Center.
  • Maybe you attended the World Café on May 27, 2010, where approximately 60 stakeholders from across the university participated in a conversation to help inform further planning for an intergenerational center?
  • Maybe you participated in the recent Faculty Survey to identify interest regarding utilization of the center for teaching and research purposes?
  • Or, maybe you were interviewed by Plante & Moran, the business plan consultant, to help inform the economic and programmatic realities of such a venture?
If you participated in any of these activities, we thank you!  If not, we hope this article will be of interest to you and that you will want to learn more about the proposed project over the next several months. Guided by a small staff and faculty work group and a Governance Committee, the important due diligence for the project is beginning to take shape.  It is anticipated that a decision will be made in the next few months regarding whether or not to move forward with this project.   If you would like additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact Linda Mauger at linda.mauger@osu.edu or 614-293-8031.

Results of Adult Day Services Study Released

OSU faculty members in the College of Social Work, Holly Dabelko-Schoeny, PhD and Keith Anderson, PhD, recently released the results of their work as co-principal investigators of The MetLife Study of Adult Day Services: Providing Support to Individuals and Their Family Caregivers.  The study indicates that the number of people with disabilities and family caregivers using adult day service centers has nearly doubled in the last eight years. Among other important findings, the study found that centers have significantly increased the amount of medical and social services they provide, with 80% now having a professional nursing staff, 50% employing a social work professional, and 60% offering case management services.  Learn more.

Arthritis and Rural Older Adults

Occupational therapy and health sciences students spent the summer and early autumn screening older farmers and those living in rural areas for arthritis.  The purpose of the project is to test and refine a new screening tool developed by Dr. Sharon Flinn and Dr. Meg Teaford of the Occupational Therapy Division.  Once the screening tool is finalized, OSU Extension staff will be trained to offer the screening during community health fairs and events, providing early education and tips for management of arthritis much like skin cancer screenings are being used. The students visited five county fairs, the Ohio State Fair, and the OSU Farm Science Review. To-date, they have screened over 300 older adults. The project is sponsored by an OSU Cares outreach grant and the Linda J. Cummins Fund.  If you would like more information about this project, please contact Dr. Meg Teaford at margaret.teaford@osumc.edu.

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