Cedars-Sinai Nurses on an EPIC Quest to Help Older Adults
Sep 30, 2020 Cedars-Sinai Staff
As we age, most of us want many of the same things: to maintain our independence and a great quality of life at home with our loved ones, doing the things we enjoy.
By 2050, 20% of the U.S. population will be age 65 or older—a massive surge from 8% in 1950 and 12% in 2000. Older adults tend to need higher levels of care and are at higher risk of multiple medications, mild cognitive impairment, frailty, weaker social networks and chronic conditions and disabilities.
"Now more than ever, we need to keep aging adults at the forefront of research. We have an opportunity to improve population health and wellness while saving scarce resources if we can figure out how to best help people in the community stay well and healthy."
Cedars-Sinai nurse scientists received a $2.3 million grant for a three-year study called "Elders Preserving Independence in the Community," or EPIC, that aims to assist this growing and vulnerable population by examining the best ways for them to maintain their independence and decrease their dependence on health services.
"We spoke to independent, low-income older adults and they shared their biggest fears with us: loss of independence requiring a permanent move to a nursing home or being a burden on already stressed family members," says Harriet U. Aronow, PhD, principal investigator and a research scientist at the Geri and Richard Brawerman Nursing Institute.
"We have two evidence-based strategies we hope will address those fears, while helping them maintain their independence and help them avoid high cost care."
One strategy they will test is sending advance practice nurses to homes to work with individuals. They will compare the effectiveness of that method with on-site group classes that teach wellness skills and illness and injury prevention. The study will be conducted in low-income housing developments in Los Angeles.
The goal is to improve healthy behaviors and promote preventive health actions—such as appropriate fitness activities—and use of community services while reducing dependence on costly health services.
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) awarded the grant, praising the project because it fits the group's mission to provide patients, caregivers and clinicians with up-to-date information on how to make informed healthcare decisions.
"This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options," says Dr. Nakela L. Cook, executive director of PCORI.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the research team is working closely with housing providers involved in the study to make the interventions safe for everyone involved. They're also following all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Los Angeles County and Cedars-Sinai. They expect classes will start in February 2021.
PCORI is funding the research portion of the program. The investigators are continuing to raise funds for the intervention from a variety of charitable foundations, donors, industry and government sources.
"Now more than ever, we need to keep aging adults at the forefront of research," Aronow says. "We have an opportunity to improve population health and wellness while saving scarce resources if we can figure out how to best help people in the community stay well and healthy."