McMaster University

McMaster University

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Schlegel family partners with McMaster to improve seniors' health care

Published: December 3, 2014
Andrew Costa
Andrew Costa, an assistant professor of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, is the first holder of the new Schlegel Chair in Clinical Epidemiology and Aging.

Improving health care for seniors is the focus of a new research chair at McMaster University sponsored by the Schlegel family of Kitchener.

The Schlegel Chair in Clinical Epidemiology and Aging at McMaster University is being created through a partnership of Ron Schlegel and his family with the University. Schlegel is chair of the board of directors for the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging.

The new position is an essential part of McMaster's growing research focus on aging, said Patrick Deane, president of the university. "This chair fits well into our expanding multidisciplinary work on optimal aging. This is a critically important area of research for Canadians, particularly since by 2036 it is anticipated that more than a quarter of the population will be seniors."

In an announcement at the university today, Schlegel said research into the issues of aging is of primary importance in developing healthier older adults in homes of their choice.

"We have been committed for many years to practical, applied research which will improve the quality of life for seniors. We need to ensure older adults maintain purpose in their life for as long as possible."

The Schlegel family is giving $1 million for the chair, which is being matched by McMaster and will be used over 10 years.

The first holder of the new chair was also announced. Andrew Costa, PhD, is an assistant professor of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics and associate member of the Department of Medicine at McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. He is also the research lead at the Waterloo Regional Campus of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

John Kelton, dean and vice-president of health sciences for McMaster University, said: "The research chair reflects the maturation of the Waterloo Regional Campus of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

"Specifically, we are now building up our research mission there to align with our clinical endeavors."

Costa's research is focused on helping seniors avoid unnecessary trips to hospital, and providing better care when they are there.

"The focus is on trying to keep older adults happy, healthy and living in the environment of their choice, and typically that's at home and living in the community," said Costa.

He has already developed several ways to assess older adults who may seek care at hospital emergency departments. One is a free app for use by emergency room nurses which asks six simple questions to assess how critical it is that the senior be seen quickly.

"The trouble is that a lot of older adults have complicated health issues and when they come in to emergency with a lot of things wrong, not necessarily extremely acute, they are at high risk of bad outcomes," said Costa.

"This app ranks the geriatric complexity and says maybe this person is not urgent, but they need to be seen because we know that if they're in the emergency room for a long time, and they don't get their meds or get fed, then things get really critical," he explained.

In another project, Costa created a tool that predicts emergency department use in home-care clients in order to help patients avoid emergency department admission in the first place.

Moving forward in his new role, Costa's focus will shift to the long-term care environment, particularly in preventing or managing transitions of frail seniors between their homes and hospitals. "You don't want to move them if not required. The transition to the bright, busy, noisy environment of hospitals can be catastrophic for their health."

The Schlegel family has 14 Schlegel Villages which are community-based retirement, assisted living and long term care senior living complexes from Windsor to Barrie, including the GTA. These provide several levels of care that emphasize active living. In addition, Schlegel is the owner of Homewood Health Centre, a 312-bed mental health and addiction facility in Guelph, Ontario.

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