Aging, Community and Health Research Group (ACHRU)

McMaster University


Dr. Wendy Duggleby & the ACHRU: A One-of-a-kind Partnership

Dr. Wendy Duggleby was a young nurse working on her master’s degree when she discovered an area of research which would lead her to become an international expert on aging.

It was 1988. At that time, anyone over the age of 55 was not allowed the use of a patient controlled analagesia machine that delivers pain medication after surgery. This was due to the belief patients would suffer memory loss and other cognitive difficulties – a view Dr. Duggleby describes as “ageism” and a view which continues to this day. This accepted practice encouraged her to embark on an original study on older adults and pain. “I realized after doing that study that there was a huge area of research needed about older adults,” she said.

And that’s just what she did!

During doctoral studies at the University of Texas-Houston Health Sciences Centre, Dr. Duggleby continued her research on pain and its management, broadening her interests to include gerontology. At that time she met an elderly cancer patient who told her that having hope helped to ease his pain which led her to develop an international award-winning “Living with Hope” program.

In 2010, the University of Alberta named Dr. Duggleby its first Nursing Chair in Aging and Quality of Life. The goal of her chair is to enhance the quality of life of older adults and their families through the development of new nursing knowledge to better patient care, and serve the community, by advancing and sharing knowledge in this specialty.

A one-of-a-kind partnership has developed between Dr. Duggleby and the Aging, Community and Health Research Unit (ACHRU) at McMaster University in which researchers and other University of Alberta investigators involved in ACHRU research, nurses, students, policy makers and stakeholders, in Alberta and Ontario, collaborate on research designed to improve the quality of life for older adults and their family caregivers.

“It truly is a partnership,” said Dr. Duggleby. “There is wealth of experience in both Alberta and at McMaster. What the ACHRU research unit does is that it brings all of that together for both researchers and our trainees. It makes the quality of the studies better and provides great information for people with multiple chronic conditions and their families.” It also brings researchers together with more than 75 stakeholders who are involved in all stages of the research.

Several years ago, Dr. Duggleby developed a tool kit, My Tools 4 Care, to support family caregivers of individuals with dementia and multiple chronic conditions to help them deal with the various transitions their loved one goes through as the disease progresses.

“We had developed a paper copy of the tool kit. Our partnership with the ACHRU has allowed us to put that on line,” she said. A two-year, randomized controlled trial between the two provinces is well underway to determine its effectiveness.

Stakeholders played a role in the development of the My Tools 4 Care intervention. They told researchers during one of the ACHRU's large stakeholder meetings that finances are among the greatest difficulties that caregivers face. "It had come up in previous studies but a caregiver highlighted this issue even more," said Dr. Duggleby. "We added resources for financial management to My Tools 4 Care".

At the University of Alberta, Dr. Duggelby is also Director of Innovations in Senior’s Care Research in the School of Nursing. Its focus is to develop and evaluate interventions for seniors and their caregivers. “It’s mandate is to build capacity in that area. It’s kind of fun,” she said.

Dr. Duggleby is also the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships for her research which appears in numerous peer-reviewed journals and books. She is a popular guest lecturer on aging and older adult issues and has spoken widely throughout North America, as well as in New Zealand, and Norway.

Published on: February 18, 2016

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