UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Dr. Ann Kolanowski, Elouise Ross Eberly Professor in the School of Nursing and director of the John A. Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State, is one of two project directors for a project titled “Toolbox for Improving Behavioral Health in Nursing Homes,” recently funded by a $15,000 grant from The Commonwealth Fund in New York City.
Kimberly Van Haitsma, vice president of research and director of the Polisher Research Institute at the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life in North Wales, Pa., is the other project director.
The project’s goal is to develop a collection of resources for nursing home staff to help them implement nondrug approaches to managing common behaviors in residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
“Ninety percent of people with dementia will hit, scream, become verbally abusive or resist care at some point in the disease trajectory,” Kolanowski says. “These behaviors can be difficult and dangerous to deal with, and are associated with risk for nursing home placement, more rapid functional decline and physical abuse.
“The major approach to care for these behaviors has been a pharmacological one, most notably the use of a class of drugs known as antipsychotics,” Kolanowski continues. “Research has demonstrated that these drugs not only have limited effectiveness in reducing disruptive behaviors, they also carry a significant risk for death, particularly in older adults with cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s.”
To provide alternative behavior-management approaches, the project team will identify peer-reviewed, expert-endorsed resources such as educational programs, literature, websites and video or slide presentations. These materials will be compiled into an accessible format for use by busy nursing home staff.
The grant, which runs through June, was supplemented by a $10,000 gift from The John A. Hartford Foundation.