KU gerontology research behind guidelines for health care providers

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas research on communication and aging is the basis of several guidelines in a new manual developed by the Gerontological Society of America for health care providers who frequently interact with older patients.

Communicating with Older Adults: An Evidence-Based Review of What Really Works cites research by KU Gerontology Center affiliated faculty Vice Provost Mary Lee Hummert, senior scientist and professor of communication studies; Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Psychology Susan Kemper, and Associate Professor of Nursing Kristine Williams. Study co-authors and Gerontology Center affiliates Ruth Herman, behavior analysis specialist;  Teri Garstka, research associate, and Bryan Gajewski, associate professor of biostatistics,  were also cited in the publication.

“Older adults’ interactions with family, friends and professionals has been a focal area of research and training at the KU Gerontology Center, especially efforts to improve understanding and reduce stereotypes,” said Center Director David Ekerdt.

Some examples of KU gerontology research that have impacted practice include Kemper’s coining of the term “elderspeak” to describe the patronizing “baby talk” some younger adults use when talking to older people. Williams found that the use of elderspeak with dementia patients made caring for them more difficult and Williams, Kemper and Hummert developed and tested an alternate communication style for nursing home caregivers.

The publication, whose development was supported by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, will be disseminated to members of the Gerontological Society of America, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

Copies are available for purchase here.