UGA social work professor wins $100,000 Hartford grant to study alcohol and prescription drug use by

Athens, Ga. — Stacey Kolomer, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia, has been named a 2005 John A. Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar by the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). Kolomer will receive $100,000 over two years to study alcohol and prescription drug use by older caregivers.

The Hartford Faculty Scholars program is an initiative of the GSA with funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation of New York. The goal of the program is to improve the well-being of older adults by increasing the number of adequately trained geriatric social workers. More than 76 million Americans will turn 65 in the next 30 years. But only about 5,000 social workers in the United States specialize in aging.

The Hartford program seeks to enhance the effectiveness of faculty scholars as academic leaders, role models and mentors for future generations of social work professionals working in geriatrics. Kolomer is one of 10 Hartford Faculty Scholars in the nation this year.

“This award demonstrates the productivity of Dr. Kolomer in the field of aging and is an endorsement that she is poised to become a national leader in social work and aging,” said Nancy Kropf, interim dean of the School of Social Work.

Kolomer, who joined the social work faculty at UGA four years ago, will use her award to determine the demographic and health characteristics associated with being an older caregiver and abusing alcohol and prescription medications. She also wants to see what interventions can be created to help prevent the misuse of alcohol and medication by older caregivers.

“It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to be the primary caregiver for another person,” said Kolomer. “There’s a lot of evidence that caregivers experience physical, mental, emotional, financial and social strain because of their responsibilities, but often the needs of caregivers go unnoticed until a crisis occurs.”

According to Kolomer, more than half of all hospitalizations for adverse reactions to drugs are of people over the age of 65. And 30 percent of people over age 65 take eight or more prescription medications every day. Medication misuse is defined as using medication at an unsuitable dose, combining medications that should not be combined, skipping doses or using medication with alcohol.

“We know that there is an association between the burden and strain of caregiving and the misuse of medications and alcohol. The more we can understand this relationship the better able we’ll be to design services and programs to address this issue for caregiving families,” said Kolomer.