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Researchers to look into what older, more frail adults need to stay in their homes

Ellen Abbott

Syracuse's Upstate Medical University is taking a research project into the community, which will focus on older, frail adults.

Dr. Sharon Brangman, chief of geriatric medicine, says usually researchers start out with a thesis and then try to prove it. Armed with a $15,000 federal grant, they’ll work the other way around on this.

"We’re going to go out and have conversations with older people to find out what things are important to them to keep them independent and in their own homes," said Brangman. "We want to look at frailty as something we can learn more about, to help prevent it.”

Brangman says the research looks at an issue that can have a major impact on older adults.

“It leads to falls, it leads to more stresses, say during surgeries or recovering from operations," she said. "And even something as simple as a cold or a urinary tract infection can make make an older frail person have a significant change in their function.”

To facilitate this, Upstate is joining forces with community groups including FOCUS Greater Syracuse. Executive Director Charlotte Holstein says a recent survey of older Central New Yorkers, showed that people want to age in place at home, and this can help.

“As they become more frail, and we hope we can prevent frailty for some of them, they will need certain kind of help and care," said Holstein. "And this research hopefully will tell us what all that is."

Brangman says the medical community needs to learn how to support frail adults, noting that frailty can lead to more disabling falls, and can make it harder for doctors to treat routine ailments.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.