Building improved care post-COVID for older adults and their caregivers
“As Geriatric Emergency Management Clinicians working out of the Emergency Department, we have had a unique view into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our older adult population. We have noticed an overall decline in health for older adults in the community.
Despite their efforts, local agencies faced many gaps and new challenges when trying to adapt the support they offer to the public. Older adults who were relying on community supports were seeing gaps in care or refused care into their homes in fear of contracting COVID-19. Some caregivers were now responsible for providing 24-hour care with little or no relief available to them, while others avoided their loved ones in an attempt to protect them from the virus. Many older adults could not afford delivery services or taxis due to low income. There were no activities or social gatherings for older adults to stay active. Deterioration of function, mood and mobility were seen regularly in adults 65+ presenting to the Emergency Department.
We look forward to the recognition of these challenges to older adults and improving quality of patient care as we move forward in this ‘new norm’.”
Heidi Pierce and Vicki Spurway, Geriatric Emergency Management RNs at Sault Area Hospital
During the pandemic, efforts to strengthen the health system came to an abrupt halt. As we approach the end of the pandemic, we now have the opportunity to not only rebuild the health system, but advance it to where it should be. In response to the challenges experienced by older adults and their caregivers throughout COVID-19, our team has been hard at work on the Algoma COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Plan for Older Adults and their Caregivers. This plan is about taking lessons learned from COVID-19 to improve care for older adults while building and implementing new, innovative programs at the same time. The plan is organized into four focus areas:
Reverse functional decline: This focus area is about improving access to supports for maintaining physical health.
Enhance mental health and wellness supports: This focus area is about promoting mental wellness and improving management of mental illness
Increase frailty knowledge in primary care: This focus area is about supporting primary care to identify frailty early and easily connect patients to related care
Empower caregivers: This focus area is about recognizing and supporting the essential care provided by caregivers
This work has been a robust team effort led by Dr. Winyan Chung (Family Physician; Algoma District Medical Group/Group Health Centre), Dr. Katriina Hopper (Geriatrician/Head of Geriatrics; Sault Area Hospital), Victoria Aceti Chlebus (Manager, Programs; Algoma OHT), and Dana Corsi (Regional Geriatric Rehab Lead; North East Specialized Geriatric Centre). We want to send a special thanks to the large group of partners and collaborators who have helped develop this report. Moving forward, this planning will collaboratively build onto existing projects within the AOHT, such as the post-falls pathway and early frailty identification (healthy aging), Caregiver ID, and exploration of transitions in care. To see a draft version of the plan, please visit www.algomaoht.ca/feedback. Stay tuned for the final plan coming soon!
To learn more about this work, please contact Victoria Aceti Chlebus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 705-989-8852.