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COLUMBIA - Researchers at the University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing said they believe elderly care can improve.

For the last four years, the school’s Missouri Quality Initiative implemented advanced practice nurses in nursing homes to develop better care methods.

MU nursing professor Marilyn Rantz said the initiative’s main goal is to reduce hospitalizations of nursing home residents.

“What happens with people when they are transferred to hospitals, especially for older people, is they will decline more, and more rapidly,” Rantz said.

Lori Popejoy, associate professor of nursing at MU, stressed the importance of enhancing quality of life.

“We want to improve care to the resident, improve quality of life for the resident, we want them to be able to stay in their home and not be hospitalized when they become ill,” Popejoy said. "But perhaps more importantly, we want them to not get ill in the first place.”

Entering the initiative’s fifth year, Popejoy headed a recent study to evaluate its effectiveness. She said the focuses of the new research were early illness identification, critical conversations with residents and taking care of the basics.

“[It] includes getting people hydrated, making sure they have enough fluids, making sure they’re eating well, making sure that they’re protected from falls,” Popejoy said.

“One of the key problems in nursing homes is hydration,” Rantz said.

In response to this issue, advanced practice nurses helped elderly care facilities enact hydration stations.

“Making sure that staff knew that they could actually do something, what seems very simple, but that very simple thing changed the trajectory for patients,” Popejoy said.

Rantz said she believes advanced practice nurses need to be implemented nationwide.