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$2.5 million granted to ECU college of nursing for geriatric research by Idowu Olabode : September 24, 2015, 08:56:57 PM
East Carolina University College of Nursing has been awarded a grant to improve geriatric health care in the eastern North Carolina region.

Geriatric health care focuses on aging and diseases of the aged, according to the Farlex Medical Dictionary. North Carolina’s geriatric population is the fastest growing demographic of the state’s population.

Dr. Sonya Hardin, professor and interim associate dean for graduate programs in the College of Nursing, is a principal investigator with the grant and believes the high number of elderly people in our area is due to the aging baby boomer generation.

“We see those baby boomers having more and more health needs,” said Hardin. “But we are also doing a really good job across the country at managing chronic illness so that individuals are staying alive longer.”

This grant, given to the College of Nursing by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, totals a little over $2.5 billion according to Dr. Hardin and will last until the summer of 2018.

Hardin said the unique factor of this grant is that it allows a six-month planning period. After applying for the grant in March, Hardin’s team heard back in mid-July that they did receive the financial assistance. She said during the planning period, the primary focus has been reaching out to stakeholders and partners on the board. Hardin said the team plans to be ready to start with a variety of educational and health care activities in January.

During the first year, the focus is going to be on agricultural health care. Hardin explained that agriculturally speaking, farmers typically work very long hours and majority of them are self-employed which makes it difficult to be covered by health insurance providers. Nurses will be going out to the farms and meeting with aging farmers in the area to identify their specific health care needs within the industry.

“For example, in farming you find a lot of osteoarthritis and issues with machine safety,” said Hardin. “This can become more of a challenge especially as one ages.”

Hardin said being able to help the more rural counties in eastern North Carolina is a great thing because it fits in with ECU’s mission to transform health care in our region.

The second year of the grant will focus on the forest industry and the third year will focus on commercial fishermen.

Hardin said her team is going to train nurse practitioner students, physician assistant students and medical students to work together at places like Cypress Glen Retirement Community in Greenville. Also, nursing students and PA students will be working in Ahoskie at the Roanoke-Chowan health care clinics as well as other areas in the southern part of eastern North Carolina.

Hardin’s team of trained health care specialists will have designated areas where they will perform geriatric screenings and other tests assessing things like dementia and mild cognitive impairments. The nurses will take referrals and will schedule individuals to come in so they can perform a series of assessments depending on the needs of that patient.

Another part of this plan is to provide training to primary care providers in all 41 counties of eastern North Carolina.

“For example, in Ahoskie, they felt the need for more education on end-of-life care and planning with older adults,” said Hardin.

Part of this grant will specifically focus on dementia and Alzheimer’s and how to provide specific care to that population.

Hardin said geriatric patients, at times, need more attention than other patients for a variety of reasons. Some older patients take longer to think through decisions with their primary care providers. Also, older adults can sometimes be in an examination room with family members and Hardin said that it is important to focus on that patient and not look over them and simply speak to the family members.

Deborah Reed, professor at University of Kentucky’s College of Nursing, is coming to ECU in the spring to help consult Hardin’s team.

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