Save on health care costs? Prevent the elderly from falling

Save on health care costs? Prevent the elderly from falling

Annual Encouragement Award for the best thesis in Health Sciences

17-01-2024 · Interview

The elderly fall often and as a result regularly break bones. To prevent this, all kinds of prevention programmes have been set up. Which one is the most effective? 25-year-old Jessica Storm chose this subject and won the Catharina Pijls Encouragement Award for the best master’s thesis in Health Sciences at Maastricht University.

She didn’t just win with her thesis, which was evaluated as ‘excellent’, but also because of her high grades; with her master’s of Healthcare Policy Innovation and Management, she graduated with distinction. And as if that wasn’t enough, she has a second diploma: the master’s of Health Economics from the university of Cologne.

Jessica Storm

On Thursday 11 January, Storm accepted the award worth €2,000 during the annual Catharina Pijls lecture at UM. “I may buy a new coffee machine for my employees,” she says laughing. Since December, the German girl works as a trainee manager at a care home near Bonn.

Her first job and such a position so soon, how did she manage that? “Due to my double

master’s, I have garnered a lot of tools that I can now use. Communication skills, for example, important in order to build good relations with inhabitants, carers, and colleagues. The care home where I work is very innovative and is therefore open to new ideas. With my knowledge, I can actually implement those ideas.”

Storm’s literature research showed that of the various fall prevention programmes – including cognitive and exercise training – the latter is the most effective. No sooner said than done. In groups of five or six, the inhabitants of her care home now practice under the supervision of a physiotherapist.

Her interest in geriatric care stems from her bachelor’s. Storm did various work placements in hospitals where “often the more vulnerable can be found, such as the elderly,” she says. “Every year, half of the elderly fall. In 90 per cent of those cases, something is broken. That costs a lot of money.” In addition to her professional experience, she also deals with a form of elderly care in her private life. For a number of years now, she and her mother have been taking care of her granddad, who lives just a couple of streets away. “He is in the early stages of dementia, but still lives by himself. I check in on him every evening to help him, for example, with the cooking.”

Soon she will manage a completely different care home, but that is under construction. Until then, Storm– as a trainee – is receiving supervision from an experienced colleague. And even though she is further away from the residents as a manager, her office door is always open. “Sometimes, a resident pops in with a question, or for a hug, it is all possible."

Catharina Pijls Prizes

The prize-giving ceremony takes place every year prior to the Catharina Pijls lecture, held in honour of pharmacist Catharina Pijls (1909-1993) from Geleen. In 1984, she founded an organisation with the aim of improving research and education in Health Sciences. In addition to the Encouragement Award, the national Thesis prize of €10,000 euro was also awarded. This year, it goes to Dr. Evelyn Brakema from Leiden University for her cum laude PhD on the implementation of programmes against chronic lung disease in poorer areas, an international research project.

Illustration: Shutterstock

Categories: news_top, Science
Tags: elderly,catharina pijls,prize,master,thesis,fall prevention,fracture,health sciences,fhml

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