Home-care service initiatives invaluable, clients tell gathering

Recorder.ca – City and District
Sept 1, 2010.   Posted By NICK GARDINER , STAFF WRITER
Bob Trussell is eager to tout the benefits of what he calls a “10-star” aging-at-home health care strategy.

The 81-year-old retired salesman told an audience of 60 health-care providers Tuesday how services provided at home have allowed him and his wife Anne to stay at home, despite recent health problems.

“This is keeping us in our home. I’m able to sit out back with Anne and feed the birds and enjoy what we can,” said Trussell.
Trussell and Doris Seabrooke of Athens provided testimonials to local home-care initiatives during a meeting arranged by the South East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) and hosted by Brockville’s Community and Primary Health Care (CPHC) agency which delivers some of the services.

Similar services are provided under different titles and acronyms by the province’s 14 LHINS and each held a celebration Tuesday timed to coincide with announcement of funding by Health Minister Deb Matthews.

The celebration in Brockville focused on three aging-at-home services, including the Home at Last and Home First programs for patients who would otherwise be waiting in hospital beds for nursing home spaces to become available.

In the case of Trussell and Seabrooke, however, their praise was for the SMILE program (Seniors Managing Independent Living Easily) delivered by CPHC, Bayshore Home Health and the Red Cross.

Bob Trussell said he lives on a pension and the program has helped with meals, personal respite, household chores and care for his wife that he could not accomplish alone.

He said Anne has had heart surgery and a stroke, is partially paralyzed and legally blind while he has had both knees replaced and has knee and shoulder problems that limit his ability to help his wife.

Through the SMILE program, however, Anne was provided with a walker to promote her mobility, a gate to prevent her from falling out of bed, weekly sponge baths, meals, blind-training from the CNIB, a Lifeline connection to emergency help if something happens when she is alone and many other services, said Trussell.

Moreover, respite service was provided to keep Anne company and allow Bob time for personal interests or to run errands.
“According to government standards, we live in poverty but our cup runneth over,” said Trussell.

Despite his own ailments, Trussell said he gets as much exercise as possible, including riding a lawn mower to cut his grass.

“I want to get all the help I can get, but I don’t want to take what I don’t need.”

Doris Seabrooke, who was also on hand to provide a testimonial for the program, showed a similar reluctance to accept help “for anything I can do myself.”

A fall on the ice a couple of years ago left Seabrooke with a badly injured shoulder that required surgery and continuing therapy.

But she is determined to continue living at the active beef farm she built with her late husband Harold, with a little help from the SMILE team.

“My right arm is still strong but I can’t pull up the zipper on my clothes or wash my hair,” said Seabrooke.

“And you should try shovelling with one arm tied behind your back. Step on it and it will whirl around and hit you in the head.”

She does sweep the floor again after being unable for a year, but relies on help from the program for outside maintenance once a week and inside cleaning every second week.

“It’s pretty neat. I invite you all to come and see it,” joked Seabrooke.

The SMILE program is provided by the South East Ontario Victorian Order of Nurses, which contracts agencies to deliver it locally.

In Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, the service is provided by Bayshore Health Services, the Red Cross and Community and CPHC, which hosted Tuesday’s event.

Ruth Kitson, CPHC executive director, said she enjoyed the testimonials for a popular program which has a waiting list of clients.

Kitson said it is unclear how the funding announcement by Matthews will be rolled out, but she is “guardedly optimistic” it will include additional program delivery from the CPHC.

In London Tuesday morning, Matthews said $272 million is being invested in home-care services as part of a strategy to reduce people’s reliance on emergency rooms and hence to reduce waiting times.

It’s a strategy that has already worked to reduce the number of hospital beds used for alternate care patients from 60 per cent to 28 per cent in seven hospitals across the South East region, LHIN chairman Georgina Thompson told the Recorder and Times after formal ceremonies.

Last spring’s closure of 15 beds at Brockville General Hospital was a result of the policy, said Thompson, noting the beds were no longer needed after alternate care patients began receiving health care at home.

Judy Stewart, president of the South East Ontario VON, said “client-choice” is an attractive feature of the program.

Like Trussell and Seabrooke, many seniors are staunchly independent and don’t want help for something they can do themselves, said Stewart.

Moreover, people may self-refer to the SMILE program by calling 1-888- 866-6647 to enquire about receiving services, she said.

But she noted the criteria is restrictive “to capture the frailest of the frailest senior citizens.”

Patients must be over 75, suffering from an age-related disease and living alone or with a caregiver unable to provide all their needs, said Stewart.

Moreover, they must have a cognitive impairment and an unscheduled medical appointment in the 50 days previous to receiving services.

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