Doctoral-level occupational therapy (OTD) students need to gain specialized geriatric knowledge and skills due to a growing aging population and a transformative health care environment. The number of adults over the age of 65 in the United States is projected to double by 2030; the majority of these adults want to age in place or remain in their home as long as possible. However, as people age, they are more likely to experience physical and cognitive changes which often result in functional impairments that can impact their safety and ability to age in place with their families.
To address this gap, we propose to combine our expertise in gerontology and aging in place with the developers of Skills2Care®. Skills2Care® is an innovative and evidence-based occupational therapy program designed to target functional limitations and environmental barriers that older adults with physical and cognitive declines and their families face while in their home. Our OTD students with an interest and desire to demonstrate their proficiency in geriatric care will have the opportunity to receive a personalized education experience through training in Skills2Care®. This Skills2Care® personalized education experience consists of two components: training and certification. For the training component, students will complete readings, web-based modules, and an on-site workshop. For the certification component, students will apply their learning by participating in five teleconference coaching sessions with the Skills2Care® instructor and delivering the hands-on Skills2Care® program to three to five older adults with physical and/or cognitive difficulties and their families that reside in the local community.
The personalized education experience will provide OTD students more advanced and in-depth knowledge with increased clinical exposure and training in geriatric care. In so doing, we will expand capacity of graduates of the OTD program as occupational therapy professionals trained and certified to deliver Skills2Care®. Our long-term objective of establishing this personalized education experience for our OTD students is to have direct community impact by helping increase independent living for older adults that experience physical and cognitive changes, as well as their families. This project provides the first critical step to providing a sustainable Skills2Care® training at the University of Pittsburgh that helps us reach our long-term goal.