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 has been at the forefront of advancing elder care throughout her career.Appointed the inaugural Jacques Mohr Professor of Geriatric Nursing Research, she has made significant progress in studying the use of technology to improve the lives of elderly people and their family caregivers.
She is an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of technology for aging, receiving the 2014 Cutting Edge Leadership Award from the International Society of Gerontechnology for her development of a "smart dresser" to interactively coach those with Alzheimer's disease who have difficulty dressing.
Dr. Mahoney had mentored numerous junior faculty, aiding several to receive their first research grant awards. During her career she has generated over $6M dollars in funding, published 110 peer-reviewed journal articles, and given hundreds of presentations. She retired in April 2017.
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