Archive for March 5th, 2010

Mar 05 2010

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Program address issues of ‘aging in place’ in prison

The U.S. population is graying everywhere, and that includes behind bars.

According to Mary T. Harrison, a psychologist at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, about 10 percent of inmates of state and federal prisons now are 50 or older.

The 50+ population has tripled since the early 1990s, she said, and as a result more inmates are dying in prison. There were 1,630 inmate deaths in 1991. Ten years later that number had almost doubled.

Harrison spoke at at the annual conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, held March 4-7 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno. She described a program for older prisoners that she launched at the correctional center in 2004. It’s called the Senior Structured Living Program or True Grit.

The program, which has grown to about 120 members, aims to provide older inmates with dignity and humane care, she said. It was begun in response to older inmates being exploited by younger inmates. Some of the older inmates, especially those in wheelchairs, were having to pay protection money to the younger inmates.

True Grit participants live in one unit of the prison. They participate in a wide variety of structured activities, including pet therapy, arts and crafts and drama productions. They also must do work such as cleaning.

True Grit operates at no cost to taxpayers, she said. It is run entirely by herself and volunteers from outside the prison. These include military veterans who meet with vets who are behind bars. About half of the participants in the program are military vets, she said.

She said the program benefits the prison system by reducing costs of medical care, including the provision of psychotropic drugs. She also said older inmates would often malinger in the infirmary to get out of their cells.

“Now we can’t even get them in [the infirmary],” she said.

She said the program also helps rehabilitate those prisoners who are eligible for eventual release, although about 70 percent of participants in True Grit are in prison for life.

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Mar 05 2010

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Nursing students test their skills on Gerontology Education Island

On  Gerontology Education Island in the virtual world Second Life, Lesele Rose’s nursing students can do assessments of virtual patients (for a grade), see how homeless people live, and, as everywhere else in Second Life, fly.

Rose, an  instructor in the College of Nursing at the University of Utah, built the island to give students an interactive learning experience. She demonstrated its many capabilities at the annual conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, held March 4-7 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno.

The virtual examination rooms include beds and medical monitoring equipment. In the future, she said, there will be sinks where the students’ avatars will be required to wash their hands before examining a “patient.”

Such learning environments are common now in Second Life. She showed one facility constructed for medical examiners. She said she would consider taking her students on a field trip to the facility.

Among the other items of interest outside the main building on Gerontology Education Island is a small hobo homestead complete with a hammock and clothes line. On giant video screen inside the building, students can watch YouTube videos or take a look at any website.

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Mar 05 2010

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Rowe: More training is required of dog groomers than of people who care for elders

Filed under AGHE conference 2010

In California, at least, less training is required to become a dog groomer than to provide care to an elder.

That astonishing fact was one of many shared by Dr. John W. Rowe at the opening plenary session of the annual conference of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.  The conference opened on Thursday, March 4, at the Peppermill Resort in Reno.

Rowe, coauthor of the acclaimed book “Successful Aging,” is the former chairman and CEO of the health insurance company Aetna Inc. Currently a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, he chaired a study group of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy Sciences that came up with recommendations to improve the availability and quality of health care for elders in the United States.

Almost all of the recommendations from the study group’s report are included in the current health-care legislation being debated in the Senate.

Rowe described how the number of geriatric specialists has actually been decreasing in recent years in spite of the fact that elders consume the most health care and elders are becoming a greater percentage of the population.

He said fewer people have been going into geriatrics for several reasons: negative stereotypes about older people; the high cost of training for geriatric certification; and lower incomes geriatricians can expect because most elders are insured by Medicare, and Medicare reimbursement rates are lower than for private health insurance.

He also noted the low standards for elder care. In California, not only dog groomers but cosmetologists and crossing guards also are required to have more training than people providing care to elders, he said.

The study group’s recommendations fall into three categories, he said:

  • Enhance competence of the general workforce in regard to common problems of aging;
  • Increase recruitment and retention of geriatric specialists and caregivers;
  • Implement innovative models of care.

He said he’s hopeful of change, given how quickly the recommendations were adopted by the Congress.

“This may be an idea whose time has come.”

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