The holes in the healthcare system became truly clear to Theresa (Terri) Floegel–a nurse with many years of experience under her belt–once she began teaching prospective nurses and watching her nursing students show her what they thought was the priority in caring for older hospital patients. Conversations revolved around fixing injury or disease rather than supporting the whole person to regain health and stay healthy. This drove her passion for thinking a bit further outside of the box.
In July, Terri will defend her dissertation for a PhD at ASU in Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Wellness, with a focus on the older adult population. Working alongside her mentor, Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Matt Buman, Terri designed experiments and trials to examine what works and what doesn’t when it comes to continuous monitoring of function and physical activity in older adults.
“It’s a good time to test things so that we can see what we need to fix in order to make it easy for older adults once they become our elderly,” says Terri. “In ten to fifteen years, the older baby boomer generation will benefit from this work.”
She’s leveraging this with the fact that the young baby boomers are much more connected than our current elders. As they age, and because they are more tech-savvy, there is vast opportunity to tap technology as a resource to promote better health and longevity.
Typically there aren’t a lot of nurses actively engaged in projects addressing these problems. That reality is unfortunate. “If nursing isn’t engaged in embracing new processes and technology, we’ll really be pulling back any advancement in healing,” says Terri.
Her work with Dr. Buman included spearheading a validation study of activity sensors in seniors with the Jawbone company. They are now investigating predictive models within continuous monitoring and comparing them with functional and hospital outcomes in order to identify areas for preventative measures in older adults.
Moving forward, Terri will be bringing her ASU experience to University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Nursing to investigate objective assessment monitors and tools, including blood biomarkers, in older adults with chronic illness. “It sounds rather simple: It’s easier to care for someone who is only a little sick, rather than a lot sick. Being able to capture objective information related to activity and overall health in real-time may enhance our ability to reach older adults sooner and provide them with the appropriate care and resources.”
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