When geriatrician, Dr. Alexandra Papaioannou talks about her research and work with seniors at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), it’s clear that she and her team are looking at the “bigger picture,” finding ways to enhance and restore one’s quality of life.
“When you treat a 50 year-old with a heart ailment, you look at their heart,” she says. “When you treat a 75 year-old who has fallen, you need to look at the senior and the numerous other health issues they are dealing with that have brought them to you.”
It’s this integrated, holistic approach that drives the GERAS (Geriatric Education Research in Aging Sciences) Centre team to focus on research that addresses HHS priorities – improving quality of life, advancing inter-professional education for healthcare professionals and developing health promotion strategies that enhance quality of life, function and independence for seniors and their families.
“As Hamilton has one of Canada’s largest growing populations of seniors, research is imperative to ensure their health needs are met, and they live their best lives,” says Dr. Papaioannou.
Located at St. Peter’s Hospital (SPH), the GERAS team focuses on frailty, falls and fractures, dementia and delirium and end-of-life-care.
“As healthcare professionals, we know it’s important to help older adults stay healthy at home and function independently as long as possible,” she says. Research by the GERAS team has led to new guidelines to prevent fractures in residents of long-term care facilities, setting out strategies regarding risk factors, nutrition, vitamin supplements, exercise, hip protectors and safety.
“Our goal is to help reduce falls and fall-related injuries, so patients can have a much improved quality of life and be able to live safely and confidently in the community,” says Dr. Papaioannou.
Partnering with other academic partners like the University of Waterloo Aging Centre, Dr. Papaioannou is excited about the innovative research being undertaken that will improve the lives of seniors. She hints at a new tool being developed that will be able to predict who is at risk for a fracture in their later years and will eliminate the need for bone density tests. “What this means is that seniors can stay in their homes to be assessed and it will prove to be invaluable for frail seniors in long-term care centres or a homecare setting.” She says it’s a leading-edge tool that will be used in Hamilton and potentially internationally.
While the GERAS Centre partnership between SPH and McMaster University has led to many recognized successes, Dr. Papaioannou acknowledges the wonderful passion of the staff at HHS to bring research and innovation into the homes of seniors who benefit the most. “No matter what stage of the journey you are on, and despite the challenges you experience, you can still live with joy. Ultimately, that is the goal we strive to achieve.”
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