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Release: Aug. 16, 2001

Lt. Gov. Pederson to dedicate geriatric nursing excellence center

Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson will deliver the keynote address during opening ceremonies for the Iowa Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence (HCGNE) on Thursday, Aug. 23, beginning at 2 p.m. at the University of Iowa College of Nursing. Other distinguished guests planning to attend the opening ceremony include U.S. Rep. Jim Leach,
UI President Mary Sue Coleman, state Sen. Bob Dvorsky of Coralville and state Rep. Dick Myers
of Iowa City.

Established Jan. 1 with $1.33 million in funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation, the center is set to implement initiatives in research, education, nursing practice and health policy to improve the quality of nursing care for older adults.

The 2000 census showed Iowa ranks as one of the oldest states. Nearly one in five Iowans -- 18.8 percent -- is 60 or older, with those 85 and older making up 2.2 percent of the population. Moreover, according to the census, almost 30 percent of Iowans 65 and older live alone, and a quarter of Iowa households have individuals 65 and older living in them. Other data suggest that most older adults have chronic health problems, with half of Americans 65 and older reporting at least one disability that affects their ability to perform normal activities of daily living.

The Iowa HCGNE will address the needs of Iowa's elders by adapting the latest health care research for use in patient care and disseminating information to practicing nurses, said Meridean Maas, Ph.D., professor and chair of the College of Nursing's Adult and Gerontology Nursing area of study and principal investigator and director of the new center. The center also will develop programs to educate undergraduate and graduate nursing students in geriatric care; train and mentor nurse scientists early in their careers; promote public policy aimed at improving care for older adults; and increase public awareness of the contributions nursing care makes to better and more cost effective health services for older adults.

"The College of Nursing has already generated a wide range of innovations in nursing care for elders," Maas said, in such areas as pain management, fall prevention, pressure ulcer prevention and treatment, training family members who care at home for individuals with Alzheimer's disease, and urinary incontinence. "The Iowa HCGNE will help us ensure that these improved practices are taught to our students, nurses already in the workforce and health care administrators."

Paula Forest, UI assistant professor (clinical) of nursing and program coordinator for the Iowa HCGNE, said one benefit of spreading innovations in geriatric nursing care will be to reduce the need for older adults to enter nursing homes, thereby maintaining their self esteem and independence. Noting that long-term care is expensive and not covered by Medicare, Forest said, "Preventing admissions to nursing homes by keeping people safe and healthy in their homes will save money, and older persons and their families with have a greater quality of life."

The Iowa HCGNE also will develop educational programs for long-term care nurses, Forest said, with the goal of improving both the quality of care in nursing homes and job satisfaction for nurses. Maas also noted that the center will work to develop partnerships with staff in all types of community settings that serve elders so that faculty and students can learn from their knowledge and experience.

The UI College of Nursing was one of five schools the Hartford Foundation chose to house one of its geriatric nursing excellence centers last year. Organizationally, the center has close collaborative relationships with the college's Adult and Gerontology Nursing area of study and the Gerontological Nursing Interventions Research Center, and with the UI's Center on Aging and Geriatric Education Center.

The John A. Hartford Foundation, Inc., of New York is a private philanthropy established in 1929. Since 1979 the foundation has focused on improving the quality and financing of health care and enhancing the health care system's capacity to accommodate the nation's growing elderly population. The majority of the foundation's current grants relate to geriatric research and training, as well as integrating and improving health services for older adults.