Diane Mahoney PhD, ANP-BC, FGSA, FAAN
School of Nursing
Putting the Care in Caregiver
Ask Professor Diane Mahoney why she came to the MGH Institute, and odds are she'll hesitate before answering. Not because she's at a loss for words, but rather the opposite. Where to start?
The honor of being named the first Jacques Mohr Professor of Research in Geriatric Nursing was the key motivator.
Throw in the professional collaborations that inherently come from joining one of the top-ranked faculties in the country – not to mention the Institute's history of innovation in nursing education – and the reasons become numerous.
But for one of the country's leading researchers in gerontology, the most important reason was much more simple.
"The Institute cares about gerontology,” says Mahoney, PhD, GNP. “It’s important here, and that’s important to me – and to our students.”
Dr. Mahoney, who specializes in dementia caregiving issues, points to America’s rapidly aging Baby Boomers as just one reason the country needs to increase its focus on geriatric care. Americans are living longer than ever before, and that increased longevity has a profound impact on quality-of-life issues, which is changing the field of gerontology.
Gerontechnology, or the use of technology with older adults and their caregivers, has spun off as a sub-speciality field and Mahoney is an internationally recognized leader in this area testing new technologies to promote aging with maximum independence.
In 2014 she was awarded a two-year, $455,000 research grant from the National Institutes of Health through the National Institute of Nursing Research to develop technology in home intervention to sustain dementia patients dressing abilities.
She is proud that the school is committed to producing highly educated clinicians who understand aging issues, and who recognize that the American health care system is entering uncharted waters when it comes to caring for this growing demographic.
“Our students are exposed to innovations in aging care to instill our graduates with flexibility and responsiveness to new ways of delivering health care services” says Dr. Mahoney.
Meanwhile, her latest research project is probing uncharted waters, too: developing a “smart dresser” that can identify dressing difficulties experienced by a person with Alzheimer’s disease and coach them in real time to foster dressing independently.
"The goal of my program of research is to adapt new technologies to simultaneously help both persons with dementia and their caregivers. I strive to engage and sustain remaining abilities for those with dementia and provide a respite break for their caregivers from frustrating daily routines."
“Understanding that relationship, the amount of time spent, the level of responsibilities, the stress that constant care can bring to the family dynamic –these are interactions that we study and address with the direct aim of reducing situational stressors and improving care,” says Dr. Mahoney, showing the sort of conviction that says very clearly why she's at the MGH Institute.
Dr. Diane Feeney Mahoney is the Institute's Jacque Mohr Professor of Geriatric Nursing Research, and Director of Gerontechnology Research and Development. She is also Senior Scientist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Munn Center for Nursing Research.
Dr. Mahoney is a geriatric nurse practitioner, senior social science researcher, and gerontologist who has been developing and testing innovative ways to use telecommunication and wireless sensor based technologies with frail and cognitively impaired older adults and their family caregivers for the last twenty years.
As an internationally acknowledged pioneer in the field of Gerontechnology (aging and technology), she has developed:
Wireless sensor based technology interventions to help elders, family members and professional caregivers better manage health and safety issues faced in home/ residential settings
The first smart dresser to enable persons with dementia to dress independently
The first multi-corporate remote home monitoring of elder activities by working caregivers
The first successful triage of activity and safety alert reporting among staff, NP clinicians, and families of residents in independent and assisted living residences
The first evidence based computerized consumer educational program that differentiates serious memory loss from normal forgetfulness
Her main interest is in conducting applied research that informs elder caregiving, geriatric practice, and health policy. She conducts feasibility and usability qualitative studies for new technologies and quantitative randomized outcome studies for matured interventions. Dr. Mahoney also serves as a consultant to businesses seeking to improve geriatric product designs, appeal, and usability.
Her research program has been primarily funded federally by the National Institutes of Health through the National Institute of Aging, National Institute of Nursing Research, and the Technology Opportunity Program at the Dept of Commerce, and privately through Foundation grants from the Alzheimer's Association and Intel Corporation. She has published original research findings in the leading informatics, social science, nursing, and gerontology journals and has been the recipient of numerous awards for her research and scholarship. Mahoney is a fellow in both the Gerontological Society of America and the American Academy of Nursing.
Dr. Mahoney is developing a "smart dresser" that senses and interacts with persons in middle stage dementia to guide them in real time according to their responsiveness through the dressing process. DRESS ultimately aims to reduce the demand on family caregivers for constant cueing and guidance and provide a respite break period. The proof of concept research was funded by the Alzheimer’s Association ETAC program (2011-13) for the original design and alpha prototype development of DRESS – (Developing a Responsive Emotive Sensing System). DRESS won the 2014 International Society of Gerontechnology Leading Edge Award for the best innovative technology.
Through funding from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Nursing Research, the system is being refined to incorporate feedback from cross cultural caregivers' focus groups to ensure adaptation to a variety of caregiving settings and users. She and her research team colleagues at NYU led by Dr. Winslow Burleson, PhD and Arizona State University School of Nursing headed by Dr. David Coon, PhD are collaborating in this project.
Ph.D., Heller School for Social Policy and Management (Research concentration in health policy and gerontology), Brandeis University, 1989
M.S., Nursing (Gerontological Nursing, CNS / GNP), UMASS/Lowell College of Health Professions, 1980
B.S., School of Nursing, Boston College, 1969
J. Albert,, L. Asen, R. Bodoff, S. Elliott, H. Higgins, Diane Mahoney, J. Mattern and et al, “Baby Boomer” Interest in the Use of Technology for the Delivery of Aging Services and Healthcare: A summary of focus group research, commissioned by Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST), American Association of Homes and Services for Aging (AAHSA), Washington, DC., 2005.
Diane Mahoney, Healthy Aging, commissioned by Pre-retirement Planning Portfolio, Bureau of Business Practice, Conn., Prentice-Hall., 1991.
Diane Mahoney, D. Pearlman and J. Callahan, Crisis in Long-term Care: The Effects of a Worker Shortage on Care of the Cognitively Impaired, commissioned by Policy Center on Aging, Heller Graduate School, Brandeis University, MA., 1987.
J. Singer, Diane Mahoney, G. Porell and L. Gruenberg, The Health Choice Medicare Demonstration: A Case Study, commissioned by Health Policy Center , Heller Graduate School, Brandeis U., 1987.
BS, Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
MS, Gerontological Nursing/Geriatric Nurse Practitioner, University of Massachusetts, Lowell
PhD, Health Policy and Aging Research, Heller School, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA