UMass Gerontology Alum Natalie Leland Receives $4.7M Contract for Dementia Care Research

A research team led by UMass Boston Gerontology alumna Dr. Natalie Leland has received a $4.7 million contract to compare the effectiveness of two care delivery models for nursing home residents living with dementia.

The contract from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute will fund a five-year study comparing care models at 80 nursing homes in 10 geographic regions across the United States. More than 700,000 Americans residing in nursing homes live with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Leland received her MS in gerontology from UMass Boston in 2006. She was awarded her PhD in gerontology at UMass Boston three years later.

Leland is now an associate professor at the University of Southern California with a joint appointment at the Davis School of Gerontology and the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

“Congratulations to our alumna, Natalie Leland, on securing this prestigious award,” said professor Jeffrey Burr, chair of the UMass Boston Gerontology Department at the McCormack Graduate School. “Our faculty has enjoyed following Natalie’s career at USC since she left UMass Boston. We are so proud of her and all of our graduates.”

Leland’s research will study the transdisciplinary approach for integrated dementia care, which combines the expertise of all nursing home staff who work together to build a common language and approach for each resident. The study will also examine the multidisciplinary approach for problem-based dementia care, in which each staff member conducts individual assessments and makes discipline-specific recommendations.

Prior research suggests both approaches are useful, but the circumstances under which each is more effective are unclear. Leland’s project team hopes to show that there is a difference between the two care models with respect to reducing the amount of medications dispensed to residents with dementia, leading to enhanced quality of life for the resident.

The study also seeks to determine if there is a difference between the two approaches in the number and frequency of disruptive behaviors in the resident with dementia, as well as other quality-of-life and safety factors for the resident and staff.

Leland’s other recent scholarship includes the American Occupational Therapy Association’s newly released “Occupational Therapy Practice Guidelines for Productive Aging for Community-Dwelling Older Adults” and trends in access and outcomes of post-acute care for patients post-hip fracture surgery.

She has received international attention for her work on falls among new-admitted nursing home patients. She is also an expert in the use of large administrative datasets, longitudinal data analysis and geographic variation in rehabilitation services.

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