New Grant Helps Spread Word about How Nurses Can Help Elderly Function Independently

    • June 28, 2011


Residents at assisted living facilities who can manage the most basic activities of daily life—getting dressed, eating breakfast, going from room to room—are more hopeful and have a higher quality of life, studies show. Nurses can play a critical role helping these patients at assisted living facilities achieve this level of independence by practicing “function focused care,” according to a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI).

Now, a $100,000 grant from the Leonard & Helen Stulman Charitable Foundation will allow one of the co-leaders of the INQRI study, Barbara Resnick, Ph.D., CR.N.P., F.A.A.N., F.A.A.N.P., professor of nursing at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, and her colleagues to further implement and test this promising protocol. Resnick and her colleagues will use a “train-the-trainer” model to facilitate adoption of function focused care in 20 residential living facilities in the Baltimore area.

The initial INQRI study, led by Resnick and her co-investigator, Sheryl Zimmerman, Ph.D., professor of social work and director of aging research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work, was intended to change how care is provided to residents in assisted living facilities and to improve function, physical activity and overall quality of life.

The project, Function Focused Care for Assisted Living (FFC-AL), involved testing a protocol in four residential living facilities that used a Function Focused Care Nurse (FFCN) who worked with staff members to teach them to implement and regularly use function focused care in those facilities. The FFCN helped assess the environment and policies and procedures that affect function focused care; educated staff; helped staff develop goals for function focused care; and mentored and motivated staff.

Function focused care involves helping residents do as much for themselves as possible, with assistance or coaching as needed. Activities can be as simple as putting on a shirt or feeding oneself. It also involves helping people engage in as much physical activity as possible.

“There’s no question that the goals of function focused care—encouraging seniors to function as independently as possible and to get regular exercise—are important and beneficial to their health and well-being,” said Resnick. “Ensuring that assisted living staff are fully trained in providing this type of care and that they provide it consistently is where the rubber meets the road. We hope that our study will provide guidance about the best ways to implement and ensure function focused care.”

Resnick noted that support for the project comes in part through her appointment as the Sonya Ziporkin Gershowitz Endowed Chair in Gerontology at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. The chair enables a national expert in the field to conduct research and educate students in the growing nursing specialty of gerontology. Resnick is using some of the funding to cover a 50-percent project manager for the function focused care dissemination study.