'Betty' is unable to straighten her spine due to previous back injuries and uses an old walker to get around her apartment. She is falling one to two times each week.
'Joan' is struggling to care for her son with spina bifida. She is no longer able to lift him in and out of bed and cannot safely assist him to access the shower.
'Dave' wants to retain his independence but is having trouble negotiating the entry stairs to his home. There is no hand railing in place and he is terrified of taking a spill.
All of these stories have happy endings thanks to the North East CCAC Assess and Restore Program. Funded as a two-year pilot project, the program helps provide the necessary equipment and or home renovations required to allow people to live safely in their homes and maintain independence for as long as possible.
Often it's a small change that brings the greatest result. For example, simple grab bars in the tub area and removal of area rugs can prevent an unfortunate fall. A stair glide to a second floor bedroom can help keep a senior at home. A lounge lift chair can avoid caregiver strain when helping a loved one to sit or stand. Many of these equipment items may even reduce the need for scheduled CCAC visits; a sit-in shower, for example, can bring greater independence in personal care and with increased mobility, many patients become stronger and healthier through exercise and movement.
But the benefits are not all physical, according to Occupational Therapist Nathan Laakso:
"I have seen more than a few tears of joy from patients during this process. One individual had been unable to exit his home independently in years. Because he couldn't leave his house, he was unable to obtain a wheelchair, so he was confined to his sofa. Today, the addition of a front ramp and a wheelchair has changed his life significantly. Despite his ongoing physical and functional limitations, he feels like he has a new outlook on life. I am very grateful to have been part of his story."
The Assess and Restore program was truly a collaborative effort. CCAC Care Coordinators worked closely with both internal and external therapists to encourage referrals from across the North East, and while applicants did not have to be on care with the CCAC to access the program, the funding was time-limited, ending March 31, 2015.
"Our team worked very hard to ensure that assessments were completed, equipment was ordered and delivered, and even gently 'encouraged' contractors to ensure the required renovations were done expeditiously," says Mary Tasz, Director of Clinical Services. "It was a great effort by many people in the community, and we wish we could have done even more. Many applications could not be filled with the available funding, which really demonstrates the need. We'll be ready to do it again."
Oh, and about those happy endings … here are a few updates from the therapists involved:
'Betty' is now using a forearm support walker and has had a bed rail installed. She is now safe to move about her apartment, has not had any falls since receiving the new equipment. ~ Bailey Drennan, Physiotherapist
Newly installed ceiling track lifts in the bedroom and bathroom are helping 'Joan' to safely transfer her son out of bed and into the shower. This has rectified an unsafe situation and means he can live with his family as they age. ~ Krista Greenwood, Occupational Therapist
The entrance to 'Dave's' home has been renovated to incorporate a new platform with railings and proper step heights. He feels safer and is thrilled with his renewed sense of independence. ~ Anthony Naccarato, Physiotherapist