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Barbara Holt Says Gerontology Program
Has Benefited Her Personally and Professionally
Fall Classes in Gerontology Start Sept. 17


West Windsor, N.J. – When Hamilton resident Barbara Holt received her catalog from Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Center for Continuing Studies (CCS) in the mail last year, she browsed through it to see what classes might be of interest.

“I kept going back to the certificate program in Gerontology,” recalls the staff member at Hamilton Continuing Care Center, where she wears multiple hats -- as a hairdresser, a receptionist and Medical Records assistant. The nursing home is located directly across the street from MCCC.

Beyond Holt's professional life lay an even stronger connection to the topic -- her 99-year-old grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease and was living alone at the time, assisted on a daily basis by Holt’s 78-year-old father.

“I realized that if anything happened to my dad, we did not have a plan in place.  I needed to understand the steps to take; I needed to know how to help him,” she explains.

In all, Holt took seven CCS Gerontology courses from October 2014 to April 2015 and earned her certificate following the completion of her capstone project this summer. CCS will start the series again this fall with “The Study of Aging” (Sept. 17-Oct. 15), the first of four fall courses.  (All courses may be taken on an individual basis.)

Holt says she learned all kinds of valuable information about the aging process, approaches to interacting with the elderly, especially those with significant mental and/or physical impairments, medications and their potential side effects, senior housing options, and public policy related to the elderly.  Her classmates included nurses, Certified Nurse Assistants and caregivers.

Barbara Holt has gained a fuller
understanding of the elderly that is
helping her personally and professionally.

In her capstone project, “Alzheimer’s and Dementia – A Family Perspective,” Holt researched the role of caregivers and the importance of a support group to guide them through the physical and emotional turbulence of caring for a family member with dementia.  She interviewed members of four families caring for elderly relatives and observed how these individuals were functioning as a loosely knit support group.

“The idea of starting a support group and creating a structure to keep it going became my focus,” she said.  “If I can help another family, I’m all for it,” she says.

Holt says her family’s decision to move her grandmother to Hamilton Continuing Care in March was solidified through her classes at Mercer.  “Now she is with me at Hamilton.  Now she is safe and we have peace of mind."

Holt’s newfound knowledge of the elderly is paying off on a professional level as well.  “I have developed better communication strategies for working with residents.  I have confidence based on what I learned in the classroom,” she said.

Holt notes that her Mercer education is also laying the foundation for a potential new career.  In addition to her work as a hairstylist, a career she has had for 27 years, Holt's duties in Hamilton Continuing Care’s Medical Records Department include working with patient charts and doing doctors’ summaries.  Having already taken “Medical Terminology,” another CCS course, she is planning to take “Medical Billing and Coding” this fall, as well as several computer classes. Down the road, she hopes to transition into medical records full-time.

In addition to “The Study of Aging” Sept. 17-Oct. 15, the three other Gerontology courses this fall include: Care for the Caregiver” Sept. 29-Oct. 13; “Case Management and Counseling Older Adults” Oct. 6- Oct. 27; and “The Effects of the Aging Process” Nov. 11- Dec. 16.  Courses meet in the evenings for three to five sessions. All courses may be taken on an individual basis. For more information about Gerontology and other CCS programs, call 609-570-3311 or visit www.mccc.edu/ccs.

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Glenn Kraft