2005 Community-Based Grant Research Programs

Mental Health Needs of Older Adults and Their Caregivers

Harriet L. Glosoff, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Director, Counselor Education Program

Lengthening life spans and the unprecedented increase in the number of persons 85 and older place greater emphasis on those elements that contribute to successful aging. Individuals continue to face important life tasks as they age. However, if aging adults and/or their caregivers need mental health assistance, there is often hesitation to access available services because of stigma or lack of awareness. This project seeks to (a) understand the mental health needs of seniors and the family and friends who may care for them, (b) identify existing mental health services, and (c) address ways to fill gaps in available services while increasing awareness among the community's residents. This is a collaborative project including the faculty and students from the Counselor Education Program, staff at Jefferson Area Board of Agency (JABA), and mental health practitioners in the Charlottesville area. The study will involve conducting focus groups of older adults and individuals who identify themselves as primary caregivers of older adults in the Charlottesville and surrounding areas. The results of the study will provide important information for state agencies and local mental health providers as well as for educators who can better prepare professional counselors and other mental health providers to best meet the challenges and demands of the mental health needs of older adults.

Elder Abuse Prevention

James Roche, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine

A 2004 series in the Washington Post pointed to the vulnerability of residents of Virginia 's assisted living facilities and highlighted some of the often life-threatening abuses that residents may endure. This collaborative project between UVA Medical School faculty, the Albemarle County Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Community Partnership for Improved Long-term Care (the Partnership) will gather information that can be used by DSS, the Partnership, and others to maximize the effectiveness of elder abuse prevention efforts in assisted living facilities and nursing homes in Region Ten. The study will examine existing reports for the Department of Social Services (DSS), abstract information from cases in which the victims were age 60 and older and residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities, to generate data that will be analyzed for patterns that can guide resource allocation for elder abuse prevention in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Mapping the Urban Environment of the Aging

Professor William Morrish, Professor David Phillips, School of Architecture

Decisions involving the development of housing, transportation, health care services, social facilities, and commercial centers are often made in isolation of one another and with little regard for how they might impact a growing elderly population. This project focuses on where problems and opportunities exist in Charlottesville and the Albemarle urban area for the aging population to attain dignity and respect in living an active lifestyle. The Geographic Information Systems class taught by Professor David Phillips will conduct a mapping project that incorporates social, economic, and cultural elements into the region served by the Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA). It is a first step to gathering and visualizing critical information that agencies and citizens can use to see the rapidly developing complex environment and to identify development opportunities that mix generations, markets and sectors in collaborative projects that will maximize quality of life for seniors.

How Does Voting Occur in Long Term Care?

Richard Bonnie, L.L.B., John S. Battle Professor of Law

Dementia may impair a person's ability to cast a vote in an election. By the moderate stage of dementia, a person has substantial impairments in orientation and the abilities to plan and organize tasks and use transportation. Hence, if a person with dementia wants to vote, someone very well has to remind them and assist them in getting to a polling booth or ordering an absentee ballot. When this occurs in the institutional setting of long term care, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility, the approach taken by the facility will affect all of the residents. Both explicit and implicit factors can influence whether and how the residents vote. In sum, these issues raise a series of concerns about maximizing enfranchisement (i.e. the right to vote) and at the same time preserving the integrity of our democracy. In this study, law students are completing voting practice surveys of approximately 30 LTC facilities in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.

It is hoped that the results will shed light on how voting occurs in long term care facilities—a necessary first step in determining if the practice needs to be improved.

Senior Citizen Community Legal Needs Assessment

Richard Bonnie, L.L.B., John S. Battle Professor of Law

Limited legal aid resources h ave severe implications for the elderly of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District (TJPD). Not only is the growth rate of the elderly population in this region higher than the state and national averages, but within parts of this region, the poverty rate for persons over the age of 65 is higher than the national poverty rate. Moreover, many older persons with low and moderate incomes may not meet the strict financial eligibility requirements for legal aid services, yet they are unable nonetheless to afford the services of a private attorney. This study seeks to identify the unmet legal needs experienced by the elderly in the TJPD. Students will interview 150-200 local seniors regarding their legal problems and needs. Data collected will be useful to the community and also will make a contribution to the legal services literature.

Financial Abuse of the Elderly

Tom Hafemeister, J.D., Ph.D., School of Law

Elder abuse is a pervasive social problem of growing magnitude and concern. It has been estimated that 5% of elder persons in the United States suffer some form of abuse each year and that one out of every four will experience abuse or neglect at some point in their life. It is “increasingly viewed as the least recognized, least understood, and least addressed area of family violence in our society”. Although this form of elder abuse is a growing national concern, there is little research on the topic or understanding of its nature and dynamics. The goal of this project is to undertake a line of research that addresses this deficiency and will allow the researcher to develop a literature base and suitable research methodology, and expand the researcher's network of relevant community contacts, which will ultimately lead to the development and submission of a funding proposal for pilot research to be conducted in Virginia .

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