Leaders of Tomorrow: Govind Bharwani, PhD

If you ask Govind Bharwani, PhD, if he ever envisioned himself working in the long-term care (LTC) field, he’ll first respond with a slow-growing smile and finally answer with a simple “No.”

In fact, it’s the last industry he expected to work in after he received his master's degree in industrial engineering and MBA from Lehigh University. But today, LTC leaders are taking note of Bharwani as he uses what he learned on the manufacturing floor and creates therapy solutions for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s that deliver powerful results.

Bharwani spent 30 years of his career as an ergonomics consultant in healthcare and manufacturing. He traveled the country helping more than 130 companies improve workplace safety while increasing their bottom line. In 2002, he became an adjunct professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. The position enabled him to teach about subjects he felt passionate about—including ergonomics and Lean Six Sigma—while also positioning himself for the next phase of his career.

Introducing our Leaders of Tomorrow awards

Long-Term Living is proud to introduce a new annual awards program: Leaders of Tomorrow. The five rising leaders featured daily this week were nominated and chosen by Long-Term Living’s esteemed editorial advisory board. Read more about the awards program here. 

Monday: Addie Abushousheh, executive director, Association of Households International (AHHI)

Tuesday: Govind Bharwani, PhD, director of nursing Eergonomics and Alzheimer's care, Nursing Institute of West Central Ohio, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio , , , , Dad, Dayton, Day, D, d Days

Wednesday: Nancy Brody Kleinberg, CEO and administrator, Park Pleasant Nursing and Rehab Center, Philadelphia

Thursday: R. Gary Sibbald, BSc, MD, FRCPC (Med) (Derm), MEd, professor of public health and medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario.

Friday: James Taylor, president, Sodexo Senior Living, Gaithersburg, Md.  

Bharwani’s ergonomics expertise caught the eye of the Nursing Institute of West Central Ohio and he was soon asked to become its director of nursing ergonomics and Alzheimer’s care. In that role, he was sought out by St. Leonard Franciscan Living Community to evaluate its operations and consult on ways to reduce injuries for nurses and nursing assistants during direct care tasks. His work, however, expanded when he was asked to evaluate the campus’s dementia and Alzheimer’s unit and create ergonomics solutions to reduce resident falls.

After months of research, first-hand observations and trips to nearly a dozen LTC facilities in Ohio, Bharwani, along with his daughter Meena Bharwani, created the Behavior-Based Ergonomics Therapy (BBET) program for St. Leonard. The program reduces cognitive stress on residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia by using customized and stimulating interventions. The Bharwanis found one common thread among other facilities across the state: caregivers lacked the right resources needed to calm and soothe residents according to their specific needs. Most centers only knew how to engage residents in group settings, which often met the need of some residents, but not all.

The BBET program was implemented in St. Leonard’s dementia and Alzheimer’s unit in early 2010 and has since proven to be incredibly successful. Research has shown a 35 percent reduction in resident falls and a 55 percent drop in use of PRN (emergency) behavioral medications. There was more than a 50 percent jump in improved mood and behavior incidents of residents in the program. The BBET program also reduced by 60 percent the use of certain anti-psychotic medications for behavior management.

Bharwani—while speaking about BBET across the country and expanding the number of LTC facilities where it is being implemented—is already thinking of his next steps. He hopes to write a book on non-pharmacological techniques for dementia and Alzheimer’s care. On a separate note, he hopes to expand his research into dementia—a disease he says has often taken a back seat to Alzheimer’s, but can often be much more complex to identify and handle. These are his plans, but if he’s learned one thing from his past, it’s that he needs to be open to what the future may hold.

“No matter how many plans one makes, nature has its own plans for everyone, which may be different than what you might have planned,” Bharwani says. “One should be open to nature’s guidance in taking you where you will be best for humanity.”

Julie Thompson is a freelance writer based in Dayton, Ohio.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Articles