Feinberg initiative targets improvement of elder care

Elaine Helm

Researchers at Feinberg School of Medicine’s Buehler Center on Aging will partner with community agencies that serve the elderly to improve their research and evaluation methods.

With a 27-month grant from the Retirement Research Foundation of Chicago, Aging Services Support for Evaluation and Research Training (ASSERT) program staff will hold workshops for 11 partner agencies beginning Oct. 16.

In addition to the workshop series, ASSERT staff also will offer seminars at NU’s Chicago Campus that will be open to anyone involved in the care of older adults.

Both aspects of the program will help agencies evaluate the efficiency of their services, said Victoria Engstrom-Goehry, ASSERT project coordinator.

“Agencies are finding themselves in a position where they have to be accountable for what they are doing,” Engstrom-Goehry said. “(ASSERT) just makes it easier for the agencies to build better programs and to sustain better programs.”

Madelyn Iris, a Feinberg professor and director of behavioral and social science research at Buehler, said assessing the success or failure of programs for the elderly can be difficult, because agencies have few measurable concrete results.

But ASSERT aims to help agencies incorporate evaluation into their daily work to improve their clients’ quality of life, Iris said. The program also will help its partners “become more sophisticated consumers of research” that they can use to evaluate their services, she said.

One of the program’s smallest partner agencies is Senior Action Services of Evanston, which focuses on training caregivers who work in elderly patients’ homes. Participating in ASSERT will allow the agency at 1808 Maple Ave. to improve its professionalism, said Nancy Anderson, executive director of Senior Action Services.

“We’re excited that it’s a learning opportunity to develop our skills,” she said.

Though most caregivers have a high school degree, Anderson said training is a key component of improving senior services.

“The senior of today does not accept (commands) and has every right to make choices for herself or for himself,” she said. “It’s important that (caregivers and their clients) understand each other and that it’s a good match.”