Needs of Frail People and Vulnerable Elders to be Focus of New UB Institute

Institute for Person-Centered Care to be the first of its kind in the U.S.

Release Date: December 12, 2012


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Davina Porock (left) and Rhonda Rotterman (right) are directing a new UB institute focused on meeting the needs of the frail and chronically ill.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has announced the launch of a new international institute designed to meet the unique needs of one of the most vulnerable populations: persons with chronic illness, frailty and physical or cognitive impairments.

The Institute for Person-Centered Care -- the first of its kind in the United States -- is designed to provide better delivery of services to frail and vulnerable people, particularly the elderly, and support advocacy and public awareness of their needs, through a program of cross-disciplinary research, education and practice development.

"This new interdisciplinary institute will bring together researchers, educators, health care providers and community-based programs to develop and disseminate evidence-based care of the frail and aging citizens in our society," said Alexander N. Cartwright, UB vice president for research and economic development. "We are especially proud that this institute will be the first academic center in the nation to focus on this topic."

Davina C. Porock, PhD, associate dean for research and scholarship in the UB School of Nursing, will serve as director of the new interdisciplinary institute, which will involve the UB schools of Nursing, Public Health and Health Professions, Social Work and Law, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences.

The John R. Oishei Foundation and UB are providing funding to the institute.

"Person-centered care is a revolutionary approach to care for our rapidly aging population that focuses on humanizing the care of vulnerable elders especially those with dementia," said Porock.

"In addition to providing high-quality care for physical needs, the person-centered approach takes psychological and social needs seriously by respecting and valuing the individual as a whole person; by individualizing care; by trying to understand the world from the perspective of the individual; and by providing an environment that has a supportive social psychology."

The IPCC grew from collaborations between UB faculty members and the Western New York Alliance for Person-Centered Care, a grassroots collaborative of skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities dedicated to fostering a new approach to caring for residents in long-term communal living environments. Additional collaborations also exist between local researchers and researchers in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The IPCC education and training mission will be managed by Rhonda Rotterman, a registered nurse, who is board certified in gerontology and a licensed nursing home administrator. Rotterman previously served as the executive director of the Western New York Alliance for Person Centered Care.

"I am excited about the opportunity to develop courses on person-centered care at UB and help develop the evidence base that supports what we already know is the right thing to do," Rotterman said. "If we are to provide quality care and services to vulnerable individuals, it is paramount that we create a culture of 'positive aging' that focuses on how individuals can maintain autonomy and a sense of self, worth and purpose, despite physical or cognitive impairment. If we are healers, then taking care of the whole human being should be central to what we do, not just one facet of it.

"These issues will affect every one of us and those we love."

Person-centered care is an approach to care that began in nursing homes where residents, particularly those with dementia, were found to be disengaged with life and often responding to care with fear or aggression.

Aimed at alleviating the boredom, loneliness and helplessness these people often feel, person-centered care, at its most fundamental, is about ensuring dignity, personhood and purpose for vulnerable and frail individuals no matter where they live. In addition to delivering high-quality physical care, it also provides the emotional and psychological needs of the person who is unable to satisfy these needs independently.

The IPCC research program will work to develop evidence-based strategies of care based on and supported by scholarly research in the field. The institute will focus on education at the undergraduate and graduate levels, with the goal of eventually building person-centered care interdisciplinary programs of study in aging and gerontology.

It also will provide training and specialist topics for staff in elder-care facilities, hospitals, community-based groups providing health-care services, and for the public.

In addition, the IPCC will provide leadership training and practice development, as well as encouraging better delivery of services to frail and vulnerable people, and support for advocacy and public awareness efforts.

The institute will be guided by internal and external advisory groups that will be appointed in the near future.

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