CERAH Graduate Students wins Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay’s Local Social Science Research Grant

Local Master’s Student Aims to Improve Communication among PSWs and Residents in Long Term Care


The development of a new simulation tool could enhance best practices in palliative care


THUNDER BAY - May 25, 2011 – Graduate student researcher Stephanie Hendrickson received a $1,000 cheque today from the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay’s Local Social Science Research Grant to help conduct and communicate the findings of innovative local research to benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease living in long term care homes.


With the funding Stephanie, a scholar in the masters of social work program at Lakehead University is eager to begin a project supervised by Dr. Mary Lou Kelly entitled:Improving Communication Around Death and Dying for Personal Support Workers (PSWs) in Long Term Care (LTC) using a High-Fidelity Simulation Experience”.


Stephanie will be working in collaboration with two CERAH (Centre for Education on Research Aging and Health) research affiliates who have experience as palliative care educators, Kristen Jones (Faculty, Lakehead University School of Nursing) and Kathy Kortes-Miller (Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Palliative Care Certificate Program, Lakehead University).  Stephanie will be assisting in the development, implementation and evaluation of a high-fidelity simulation educational tool to provide palliative care education for person support workers working in long term care homes (LTC).


The 6 month proposed research is a sub-project of the Quality Palliative Care in Long Term Care (QPC-LTC) Research Alliance which consists of 27 researchers and 40 organization partners representing provincial, regional and national stakeholders in LTC and palliative care.


The Alzheimer Society started the grant in 2009 with a goal of fostering new researchers, and innovative high quality research investigating individual and social issues relating to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. To this end, the Society provides a grant of $1,000 awarded annually to a senior or graduate student, or to a new scholar.


“We’re very excited to support and invest in this collaborative research project, it has so much potential” states Alison Denton, Executive Director of the Alzheimer Society. “If the results are favourable, the research would advance best practices in long term care which consequently increases the standard of life and quality of care for residents and families including those affected by dementia.”


High-fidelity simulation can be defined as an educational technique that allows interactive and at times immersive activity by recreating all or part of a clinical experience without exposing patients to associated risks. Stephanie and the research team, are fortunate to have access to the Lakehead University Nursing Simulation Lab which has all the technology required to carry out this exciting research endeavour.


Residents of LTC homes represent one of Canada’s most frail and marginalized populations who often struggle with managing multiple chronic conditions and social isolation. About 65% of residents in Ontario’s LTC homes have dementia, which creates additional challenges for providing care due to related communication, functional and behavioural problems that arise.


“It has been shown that simulation is an appropriate teaching strategy for end-of-life care management,” Stephanie Hendrickson said. “This simulation experience will assist PSWs to gain confidence and knowledge about palliative and end-of-life care, to better communicate with residents and families.”


Recent QPC-LTC research has identified that the majority of PSWs in LTC homes find it difficult to communicate with residents and their families about issues around death and dying. Although PSWs provide the majority of hands-on care to residents and interact extensively with families they have very limited formal training in palliative care.


This becomes a major issue as by 2020 it is estimated that 39% of residents living in LTC will die there each year and that the majority suffer from cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.


“It is imperative that end-of-life issues are being communicated effectively with residents and families” Denton added. “This collaborative research project is consistent with our mission and will help alleviate the personal and social consequences of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for residents of LTC homes, their families and caregivers.”


Stephanie Hendrickson plans to present the team’s research finding this fall at the Canadian Association on Gerontology “New Directions for Aging” conference in Ottawa. A written report and presentation is due to the Alzheimer Society in November and results will also be disseminated at the next CERAH Palliative Care Conference.


Donations for the Local Social Science Research grant can be made online at www.alzheimerthunderbay.ca

or over the phone by calling 807-345-9556 and in person at the Alzheimer Society, 180 Park Avenue, Suite 310.


For more information on the research project or to arrange an interview please see details below.


About the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay

Founded in 1986, the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay is a charitable organization dedicated to alleviating the personal and social consequences of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The Society offers support to people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers; provides public education; promotes awareness in the community and funds research. Over 3,200 people in Northwestern Ontario that are currently living with dementia, and this number is expected to double within a generation. The Society depends on local support and donations, as the demand for our services continues to grow.