Laura Hahn

Miami University
Butler County Probate County

Summer 2014

“It was an honor being a part of the Ohio Internships in Aging program, meeting thought leaders and connecting with other interns embarking on careers in aging.”

I interned for the Butler County Probate Court, where I completed a process evaluation of their volunteer guardianship program. Courts establish guardianships to assist individuals who need help making decisions. These individuals may include people living with disabilities, mental illness, or dementia. Volunteer guardians are, first and foremost, companions. (They have what’s called guardianship over person, not guardianship over estate.) In 1996, Judge Randy Rogers started the Butler County Volunteer Guardianship program, one of the few of its kind in the state. This summer, through the process evaluation, Judge Rogers aimed to better understand the experiences of volunteer guardians, and the best ways to strengthen the program moving forward.

This was my first-ever research project, so that alone was a bit daunting at the outset. I was thankful to have the support and guidance of Miami University’s Kate de Medeiros, Ph.D., and Suzanne Kunkel, Ph.D., director of Scripps Gerontology Center. It also was a challenge to arrange and complete 37 interviews within the span of a few weeks, but thanks to a corps of dedicated volunteers and community members, it all came together. I was thrilled to receive a 93 percent response rate among the current volunteers.

In addition to the chance to complete my own research, this internship gave me the opportunity to meet leaders working in the field at the World Congress on Adult Guardianship in Washington, D.C. Closer to home, the experience opened my eyes to an underserved, often-hidden population of caregivers and loved ones and friends. It was an honor being a part of the Ohio Internships in Aging program, meeting thought leaders and connecting with other interns embarking on careers in aging. The idea of guardianship — of advocating for an individual based on his or her will and preference — aligns with the idea of person-centered care, a priority in Ohio and across the country. My internship helped me recognize this, and understand the need for more research in the area. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, perhaps I will be that researcher one day.