Congratulations to Katarina Falero, a 24-year-old doctoral student in audiology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. Ms. Falero will receive $2,500 as the recipient of our 2021 Quality of Life Scholarship.
In an effort to bring awareness to the challenges our elder generations face, Pintas & Mullins launched this scholarship to give college students the opportunity to research and learn of these struggles in the hopes that changes to the nursing home industry will occur in future generations. The scholarship has this sincere prompt: “What do we owe to the elders in our society to ensure their later life is no less fulfilling than when they were younger? What is one thing that should be done to improve that?”
No one had to ask Ms. Falero these questions twice. Her answer: better communication skills with our elderly friends and relatives. “Hearing loss,” she wrote, “may elicit eye rolls from children and grandchildren, but it is quite serious.”
“While comical to us, [hearing loss] makes our elder family members feel frustrated and left out of the conversation,” she wrote.
Hearing health has been Katarina’s passion for as long as she can remember. She took American Sign Language in high school and then followed her passion while studying at Chapman University in Orange, CA, working as a speech therapy class assistant and graduating magna cum laude. She then went to Purdue where she was awarded the prestigious Knox Fellowship.
“Having the ability to hear is the gateway to communicating with our loved ones and even the grocery store clerk,’’ she wrote. Loss of hearing in the elderly is often isolating and can lead to depression.
As with many passions, Ms. Falero’s was sparked by a childhood experience. Her younger brother, Jarrod, woke up one day with what appeared to be an earache and ended up as permanent hearing loss in one ear. Ms. Falero says not to worry about her brother who, at 19, continues to flourish in spite of his experience. She teased that he does turn up the bass volume on his car speakers a little too loud for his older sister.
Ms. Falero would like to work with children who have hearing loss when she finishes her Au.D., but she understands the full impact of hearing loss on the elderly, a demographic that can already be isolated physically and emotionally as the world continues to change and seemingly leave them behind.
“Every elder member of our society deserves to feel fulfilled and be as active as they are able to be in their community. As a society, we must empower our elder counterparts by making it easier for them to listen and participate,’’ she wrote.
Helping older friends and relatives with hearing loss can be as simple as turning down the TV set before starting a conversation and putting a hand on their shoulder and talking to them face-to-face. Technology continues to improve and is becoming more and more affordable, Ms. Falero said, citing real-time audio-to-text transcription phone applications as a great example of a simple tool that can make all the difference.
Pintas & Mullins is especially dedicated to helping seniors, specifically with our nursing home abuse practice. It’s heartening to meet students like Ms. Falero who understand that seniors deserve our compassion, respect, and engagement.
For more information on the scholarship, visit our scholarship page.
Read Ms. Falero’s winning essay in its entirety and watch our recorded interview.