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Mary Therese Biebel –

Left: Ann Kolanowski, Ph.D., RN, FGSA, FAAN
Right: Martina Roes, Ph.D

KINGSTON — When Ann Kolanowski, of Kingston, was a young nurse, she was distressed at the way nursing homes treated patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

“It was about 45 years ago, and we didn’t have good ways to respond to people,” she said. “If they were crying or wanted to leave the nursing home, they’d be tied down or given a drug.”

Four decades later Kolanowski, who holds a master’s degree from Penn State University and a Ph.D. from New York University, is researching ways people in institutional settings can be helped without anti-psychotic drugs or restraints.

“There are challenges communicating with people with dementia,” she said. “They might not understand the words if you go into their room and say it’s time for a shower. But if you show them a towel and smile and gesture toward the shower, that’s a better way. We want to help the staff — who are probably overworked and under-appreciated — help their patients.”

Kolanowski, who teaches at Penn State University’s Main Campus, is sharing a $2.5 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health with colleagues Barbara Resnick from the University of Maryland in Baltimore and Kimberly Van Haitsma, also of Penn State.