IN CONVERSATION WITH...
RUKIYE PINAR BOLUKTAS
What motivated you to go into the field of Geriatrics?
I graduated from university in 1988. During our four-year nursing education, we only had 2 hours of lectures on elderly patient care. When we went to the hospitals for practice, I saw that there was no clinic for elderly patients. However, too many elderly patients were hospitalized in adult clinics, some of these patients had hearing problems, some were walking with assistance, and some had vision problems. These patients were a special group unlike other adults, but they did not see a special care approach. Until the 2000s, there were only 2 geriatric clinics in Turkey, and 4-5 geriatric specialists (Physicians). The situation was the same at the primary health care level.
I started to work on geriatrics gradually, but I was having trouble even finding literature on the subject, then I started doing research and writing on the elderly care.
Between 1994-2009, I worked as a lecturer at Marmara University. At that time, I was informed that the nurses who graduated from our school and went to work in European countries were insufficient in their diploma supplements and that they received training on elderly health modules in order to have their diplomas recognized. At that time, I had read the European Union’s 21 targets for Elderly Health. All of this made me think that doing research alone would not be enough and revealed that changes should be made in nursing and physicians education. In 2007, the Elderly Health Action Plan was released for the first time in Turkey. While I was working at Marmara University, I implemented the Elderly Health intern course into curriculum for nursing undergraduate students, and geriatrics nursing course for graduate and doctoral students. Since then, I have been working with a focus on elderly health in both education and research fields.
I have been working in the private sector since mid-2009, which created new opportunities for me, especially in the field of elderly health education. I have worked as a manager for most of my professional life, and I can say that this has made my job easier in creating change.
What do you like the most about your field?
I like the most making change, even if it’s small, and I like how small touches make a big difference in elderly care. In addition, I like when people resist, underestimate and/or ignore what has been done, but then start doing the same things. Then I understand better that I am on the right way. In sum, I like challenge and success.
What are your main research interests? Why?
As I just mentioned, elderly care is still a very new subject in Turkey, and descriptive research needs to be done to increase knowledge. I’ve done a lot of descriptive study so far. Because these studies were important to reveal areas that were inadequate, needed to be supported or improved.
However, we need to carry out intervention studies that will create change by taking into account the results of what we have done in our country so far and the results of international studies, as well as using technology.
We also made a documentary film called ‘A Day of the a Patient with Alzheimers’. I think this film changed the perspective of both society and health professionals towards Alzheimer’s. In the same years, a movie called “White Angel” was shot in Turkish cinema, in which attention was drawn to the dementia, loneliness of the elderly, and the difficulties experienced by them. This movie had a huge impact on society, but also put pressure on policy makers.
As a result, the home care law was released, which foresees the payment of care allowance to the families of the elderly so that elderly can continue their lives in their own environment without being abandoned to the elderly care homes.
We have just completed the project of strengthening the care staff in order to increase the quality of care for the elderly staying in the elderly care institutions.
I have scattered the subject a bit, but I cannot say that the main research topic is this. I still carry out multi-disciplinary studies such as raising awareness in the society and health professionals, producing educational content, and conducting research. Of course, our future directions are to review the existing assessment tools, to develop and validate forms that can be applied in a short time so that the elderly can be evaluated in a multidimensional manner and effectively and necessary interventions can be made.
Do you have any projects in place in relation to them?
We have validated the EASY-Care 2010 version before. This year, I hope we will work using the digitised version of the ACT™ Assessment tool. Again, using this tool, we will compare the needs of the elderly living in Germany and those living in Turkey. It is certain that the electronic version will be cost-effective since it is implemented in a shorter time, however, I am also thinking whether the same results will be obtained from the shorter versions of the ACT™ Assessment tool for general use.
What projects have you done/ are you in the process of doing in relation to ACT? What stage are they in?
In 2020, we completed project titled “Increasing the Quality of Care for the Elderly: Darulaceze Example”.
New projects are still in draft form. We had a meeting with our partner in Germany for the comparison of the elderly in Germany and Turkey, the details of the study will be drawn in the coming days.
Another issue I’m considering is does the health literacy of the elderly affect the ACT™ Assessment results? If it does, maybe it is necessary to develop a different form for untrained individuals? I want to work on this before the end of this year.
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