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November 29, 2007

Gerontology master’s candidates and professors present research at national conference

Tahari Griffin of Monroe and Mary Kate Bartnik of Bossier City, both ULM gerontology master’s candidates, presented their research on elder abuse and Parkinson’s disease at the National Scientific Conference of the Gerontological Society of America, Nov. 16-21, in San Francisco, Calif.

Both presentations are based on larger studies conducted by James J. Bulot, the Endowed Professor of Gerontology and head of the ULM Department of Gerontology, Sociology and Political Science, and Professor of Gerontology and Sociology Chris Johnson.

Griffin authored “Hidden Abuse: The Impact of Elder Abuse Education on Awareness.”

Her study determined that in Louisiana, from July 1 to December 31, 2006, more than 1,600 cases of abuse were reported to Elder Protective Services. Current research suggests that only 10 percent of elder abuse cases are actually reported to authorities; in Louisiana alone, this may mean that in excess of 16,130 elder abuse cases have gone unreported during a six-month period.

To date, little research has been done on elder abuse, prevalence rates, or types of abuse. This research illuminates the abuse from a community perspective by asking students to describe any incidences that they may have observed in their community and/or family.

Current and former students, as part of an upper level elder abuse course requirement, responded to questions related to their experience(s) with elder abuse. As responses were archived, both quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed to understand the types of abuse occurring (physical abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and neglect), whether the elder abuse occurred in the community or in an institution, and the impact education has on the awareness of elder abuse.

This study serves as one proxy measure of incidence of elder abuse in the community and the role education has in understanding it. The results of this research indicate that education is useful in identifying abuse and that further education and research are warranted to aid individuals in the community to understand the definition and the risks of hidden abuse that elderly individuals may face on a daily basis.

Bartnik authored “Relationship between Education, Occupation, and Dopamine Levels: A Precursor to Parkinson's Disease?”

The study examines that about 1.5 million people in the United States today have Parkinson’s disease. Previous studies have suggested possible links between Parkinson’s disease and occupation, genetics, and environmental factors. Many of these studies have alluded that there may also be an underlying educational component, which is responsible for some of these variations seen in those who develop Parkinson’s disease.

The first part of the study attempts to replicate previous ones and also seeks to determine if other factors may be related as a precursor to developing Parkinson’s disease. Secondary analysis of the “Social Environment and Biomarkers of Aging Study” in Taiwan were conducted.

Several models were developed based on the existing literature and analyzed using multiple regressions. Data indicates that several factors are related to decreases in urinary dopamine levels, including: education, age, stress, high blood pressure, and urban living environment. This study supports the findings that there exists a link between education and Parkinson’s as measured by urinary dopamine levels. However, more research in this area is needed to help understand the relationship between education and Parkinson’s and to rule out any other possible causes of this relationship.

In addition to the well-received student presentations, faculty in the Institute of Gerontology also presented research on:

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