2010 Caroline Thompson Memorial Lecture

OT student doing research with child


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2010 Caroline Thompson Memorial Lecture

Laura Gitlin, PhD
Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy
Thomas Jefferson University
“Small Changes, Big Effects: The Role of Psycho-socialenvironmental Interventions in Enhancing Well-being in Older Adults and Family Caregivers”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

image of Laura GitlinAbout Laura Gitlin

Dr. Gitlin is an applied research sociologist and founding director of the Jefferson Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health (CARAH) at Thomas Jefferson University. For more than 20 years, Dr. Gitlin has conducted well-funded programs of research related to developing and testing innovative psychosocial and environmental home and communitybased interventions to enhance the ability of older adults to age in place at home with quality of life. Her research focuses on individuals with dementia, family caregivers, functionally vulnerable older adults, adaptation and use of environmental modifications, and depression in older African Americans. Dr. Gitlin is also the co-founder of a new initiative within CARAH, Jefferson Elder Care. Jefferson Elder Care is designed to deliver her proven programs in service settings including senior centers, adult day centers, and home care, and train health professionals in their delivery. The goal is to more rapidly move research into practice settings to make a real difference in the lives of older people and enable healthy aging at home. Dr. Gitlin has more than 130 scientific publications and is an author/co-author of 4 books, one of which is an introduction to research emphasizing both qualitative and quantitative methodologies used widely to train health professionals in research in its 4th edition. Another describes the Home Environmental Skill-building Program, a proven occupational therapy home-based intervention for caregivers of individuals with dementia.

Overview of Presentation

We stand at the cross roads of dramatic demographic and health transitions in the USA and globally. The shift in age structure with more people living longer and rise of chronic non-communicable diseases as the primary health threat to quality of life, require new models of care. Our current health system and treatment approaches focus on acute health needs and pharmacological and technological solutions. These approaches inadequately address complex, syndromal geriatric conditions such as frailty, cognitive impairment, or the functional consequences and self-management requirements of comorbidities.

This presentation will discuss emerging new treatment principles to address consequences of chronic disease and illustrate their potential by highlighting results from recent randomized trials. The trials have tested different psycho-social-environmental approaches and demonstrate the power of small behavioral and environmental changes to enable older adults and their families better manage chronic illness and enhance their quality of life.

The findings highlight the need for nonpharmacologic, multi-factorial approaches, and showcase the role of health professionals, and particularly occupational therapists in emerging care models. Also discussed will be next steps – how do we translate promising findings from these trials for delivery in practice settings and educate the current and next generation of health professionals in new treatment principles and care models.

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