Sheila Molony, Quinnipiac University – Improving the Lives of People With Dementia – 10-Year Anniversary

We’re celebrating a decade of the Academic Minute this week with one segment from each year.

This segment from 2018, Sheila Molony, professor in management at Quinnipiac University, focused on improving the lives of those with dementia.

Sheila Molony is a Professor of Nursing at Quinnipiac University and a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

Dr. Molony’s research emphasizes the importance of individually-tailored care, actively listening to the voices of older adults and families, and using these perspectives to shape healing environments in long-term care. Dr. Molony’s work clarifies the concept of at-homeness, and she has developed a reliable and valid measure of this construct that been used nationally and internationally. Dr. Molony has created resources to guide prevention and mitigation of conditions that diminish at-homeness, including delirium, dementia-related symptoms, adverse medication events and avoidable hospitalizations. Dr. Molony’s most recent work includes the publication of Dementia Care Practice Guidelines for Assessment and Care Planning in a special issue of The Gerontologist.

Dr. Molony received her BSN from Boston University, her MSN and PhD from the University of Connecticut and her Postdoctoral Fellowship from PENN School of Nursing, in partnership with Yale University.

Improving the Lives of People With Dementia


There are more than 5.5 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the United States and that number is likely to double by 2050. Today, advances in research are changing how health professionals and caregivers care for people with dementia.

The key element is person-centered care, an approach that conveys respect, and prioritizes a person’s needs, values, routines, sources of joy and personal meaning.  This philosophy is highlighted in the new Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Practice Guidelines.

One of the important concepts in my own research is At Homeness, the experience of feeling at home regardless of one’s situation, especially during transitions to assisted living or nursing homes. This feeling requires a sense of empowerment, choice, feelings of refuge or safety, connection to loved ones, and a sense of self.

Many nursing homes focus on choice, but the choices are often superficial rather than personally meaningful.

In some ways, home is a process. People who relocate or become ill grieve for the loss of at-homeness in their experience… and hope to feel at home again. The sense of home may be regained when new spaces become personal and people are able to envision a future for themselves in the new situation.

There is more to be done. We have developed a scale that measures at-homeness and are studying ways to predict or improve the process during transitions and in  hospital settings.

When working with people with dementia, person-centered care focuses on what really matters. Even individuals with severe impairment can provide clues if we take the time to listen, and see what brings joy and light into their eyes.