Written by Laura Tenhagen, Transformation Consultant at Sault Area Hospital
Caregivers play an essential role in Ontario’s healthcare system. Ontario is estimated to have 4 million caregivers that provide a wide variety of support to their loved ones. The restrictions imposed on caregivers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had detrimental outcomes on patients, caregivers, and the health system as a whole that depends on this vital role.
In January of 2020, the Algoma Ontario Health Team launched the Ontario Caregiver Organization’s Caregiver ID program as a pilot project at Sault Area Hospital to recognize caregivers as essential members of the care team. The project served to enhance a loved one's access to patients by clearly differentiating between regular visitors and essential caregivers. Once identified, essential caregivers were given visual identification through an ID badge and lanyard. They were oriented to their roles and educated on practices of infection prevention and control. Staff members also learned about the importance of working closely with caregivers by completing eLearning modules.
SAH health workers and caregivers are working together as a team in patient care to enhance the patient experience; it is so important to have a family presence and voice for every patient. My vision is for all health care facilities to adopt this practice and recognize caregivers across Algoma. - Louis Ferron, Patient and Family Advisor, AOHT Caregiver ID Project Team
The pilot project was a success, and since that time over 330 essential caregivers have been brought on to the program. This work values and celebrates the vital role that essential caregivers play as integral members of the care team.
“The Caregiver ID program implemented at SAH has created an opportunity for Caregivers to be recognized across the organization, access tools, locate resources and supports, communicate, and interact with the patient’s healthcare team. When Caregivers are recognized, engaged, supported, and empowered, patient experiences and outcomes can be positively improved. The transition from the hospital back home or to long term care can be difficult; a recognized, empowered Caregiver with the appropriate tools and support can help make the transition seamless, the patient more content, and ease the healing journey ahead. Thank you Sault Area Hospital and the Algoma Ontario Health Team for your implementation of the Caregiver ID program at SAH and continued support of Caregivers throughout the community.” - Patti Jo Duggan, Patient Family Advisor Council, AOHT Caregiver ID Project Team
In May of 2021, our team’s priority changed from expansion within the hospital to sharing the benefits and lessons learned with partners and collaborators across Algoma. We developed a toolkit and shared resources throughout the community. Organizations interested in adopting Caregiver ID are encouraged to customize the resources within the toolkit to their specific needs.
We continue to work to share the knowledge, tools and resources. Through that work we strive to ensure patients and their caregivers have seamless transitions across a variety of care settings and to recognize and celebrate the contributions of caregivers to the health system.
On behalf of the FJDH Family Council, we think the importance of essential caregivers is to be responsible for the physical care and emotional support of someone who may no longer care for themselves due to illness, injury or disability. The Caregiver ID program will help unify essential caregivers, residents, and community partners as one to better assist residents by recognizing their essential caregivers immediately and allowing the resident to have their caregiver present to help improve patient care. - Brandon Servant, FJ Davey Home Family Council Member
If we were to look forward and imagine a time where the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic were no longer evident within healthcare, a positive outcome might be considered the spotlight on the importance of caregivers and continued efforts on enhancing and supporting family presence. It is our responsibility as partners in care to ensure that caregivers feel empowered, supported, and valued for the tremendous contributions they bestow upon the health system.