Welcome to our “Stories of Better Health” quarterly e-newsletter. There is great progress being made across Waterloo Wellington to improve the health of local residents. In our e-newsletter, we share stories of improvement through the health professionals collaborating to make it happen, and the residents benefiting. If you are a health professional working to make innovative change, or a resident who wants to tell a health experience narrative, please share your story with us. As we work to improve the health and well-being of our communities, we look forward to keeping you informed of our progress along the way.
Bruce Lauckner, Chief Executive Officer, Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network
Stories from our Community
Kitchener, November 21, 2014
There has been an overwhelming response to two innovative programs introduced in Waterloo Wellington for people living with early onset dementia according to program managers.
Launched on October 1, 2014, the Young Onset Dementia Association (YODA) program, which is operated by the Region of Waterloo's Seniors’ Services at the Sunnyside campus in Kitchener and Wednesday Night Joe’s, which opened on July 1, 2014 at St. Joseph's Health Centre Guelph, are both serving the needs of persons living with dementia under the age of 65 years.
Both programs offer physical, intellectual and social stimulation to adults with early onset dementia.
“There has been a significant gap in our community with regards to providing services for individuals with early onset dementia. The response to our program is very encouraging. And we know that there is even more stigma when you are a younger person living with dementia as people don’t see it as a young person’s disease,” says Julie Wheeler, Manager, Community Programs, Sunnyside Seniors’ Services.
Matilda Kress, Acting Director of Outreach Services, St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph echoes the same sentiments: “We are the only two programs in Ontario providing one-day programs for younger people living with dementia. These programs offer control and opportunities to individuals who can still contribute to their community.”
YODA and Wednesday Night Joe’s were both named and designed by program participants so as to reflect their individual interests and needs.
A family member whose husband participates in the YODA program says: “This has been such a great program to get Gary out of the house and involved in something in our community. It also gives me a break. As the weeks progress, Gary and the other participants seem to be getting more and more comfortable in the group as they get to know each other. They go on so many fun and interesting outings, but they have also grown to support one another and that is so important.”
With regards to staff, the family member noted that: “The staff are tremendous and make the participants feel so good. I can’t say enough good things about this group. I’m so happy that YODA has been established; it’s great and I hope it continues.”
John Frauts, a participant of the Wednesday Night Joe’s had similar comments: “It is a great group of guys, we laugh and always have good conversations. It is a select group that has started small but we want it to grow. We want people to know about it.”
YODA is part of the Community Alzheimer Program (CAP) which offers a variety of programs and services to meet the needs of persons living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in Waterloo Wellington. The CAP is operated by the Region of Waterloo and funded by the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network (WWLHIN).
Wednesday Night Joe’s is part of the Outreach Services of St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Guelph which offers a variety of programs and services to meet the needs of persons living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in Wellington.
The Outreach Services are funded by the WWLHIN.
Original story with contact information.
Kitchener, November 25, 2014
The Centre for Family Medicine (CFFM) Mobility Clinic in Kitchener is being recognized locally, provincially and nationally for its efforts in addressing the needs of people with mobility challenges in accessing primary care.
Dr. James Milligan who leads the team at the Mobility Clinic says, “Literature has shown that people with physical disabilities sometimes not only have a hard time getting into a family doctor’s office but may not receive the same level of basic care that many able-bodied people do.”
The Mobility Clinic’s goal is to identify and provide any additional care that patients with mobility challenges need, whether that’s using a more accessible examination room with an adjustable examination table, mechanical lift or allowing more time for assessments. The clinic is fully accessible from its entrance with power doors and a wheelchair elevator, to the exam room with specialized equipment including a wheelchair scale all designed to make care accessible and barrier free.
Since the clinic was established in 2010, it has served more than 600 patients with physical disabilities - spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, stroke or arthritis. The multi-disciplinary team includes family physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, social workers, a chiropractor, optometrist, receptionists, community advocates and learners (family medicine residents and medical students).
As a result of the Mobility Clinic’s unique model, it has received the following awards:
- Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario (AFHTO) Bright Lights Award 2014 for creating a flexible clinic for mobility problems
- Ontario College of Family Physicians 2014 Award of Excellence for the exceptional service the Mobility Clinic provides to the community
- College of Family Physicians of Canada Bruce Halliday Award for Care of the Disabled
“What’s important about the awards is the focus on team collaboration. I appreciate the great recognition of the work our team puts in providing care to our patients. I can’t understate the importance of the team in providing this type of care, each professional brings an expertise to the table and together the team works out a plan with the person and caregiver as equals. You really learn a great deal about the knowledge and skills of the other professionals,” says Dr. Milligan.
On November 13, 2014, Dr. Milligan was named the recipient of the Bruce Halliday Award for Care of the Disabled because of his contribution to the welfare of disabled patients at the Mobility Clinic. The award, which is supported by the Research and Education Foundation of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, is named in the memory of Dr. Bruce Halliday, a past president of CFPC and OCFP, a federal member of parliament for 20 years and a champion of the disabled in Canada.
“People with mobility challenges are a marginalized population that we need to take better care of because they face complex medical needs and may use more health care resources and require more hospitalizations. That is why this type of a clinic is very important to address their care needs and at the same time reduce health care costs,” explains Dr. Milligan.
The Mobility Clinic is funded through a research grant from the Ontario Neutrotrauma Foundation (ONF) and the Schlegel Research Institute for Aging. The Centre for Family Medicine is the lead for the local KW4 Health Link which is supported by the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network.
With its collaboration with ONF, the Mobility Clinic has a special interest in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI). The clinic has opened its services to all persons with SCI within the LHIN as part of the commitment to Health Links. A family physician or nurse practitioner can refer a patient with SCI to the clinic for general assessment (annual physical exam) or a specific need such as Spasticity. The Mobility Clinic does the assessment and sends a report back to the referring practitioner and thus supports the practitioner and patient while maintaining the relationship that patient has with their normal caregiver. Referral forms can be found on the CFFM website, or call 519-570-3008, fax 519-570-0043
Dr. Milligan’s vision is for the clinic’s model to be replicated across the province. “We want to increase capacity and show the effectiveness and efficiency of a mobility clinic in other areas of the province,” he said. Highlighting the benefits of a mobility clinic, the team has done presentations at numerous conferences in the province and has produced a number of research publications.
Original story with contact information.
People From Our Community
Meet Megan Whalen, Here 24/7 Service Coordinator
Megan Whalen knew at eight-years-old that she would grow up to help people. When looking at options for post-secondary education she was drawn to a drug and alcohol counselling program at Sir Sanford Fleming. At the time, the field wasn’t widely known and it seemed like a unique opportunity to do what she had always wanted to do: help others.
After completing the program, Megan became an outreach worker for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Cambridge. After this initial experience, and a series of subsequent roles in mental health, Megan was struck by the similarities in the needs of those with mental health concerns and those with addictions in terms of recovery. Now as a service coordinator for the new Here 24/7 service at the CMHA Waterloo Wellington Dufferin, Megan is connecting the dots for many of her clients.
“I really feel like I have ended up where I was destined to be - with the education I have in addictions and the experience I have working in mental health,” she said.
In her role, Megan helps assess and refer residents with addiction and/or mental health concerns to the most appropriate care. The 24/7 help line, which was launched in April 2014, is already making a huge difference.
“One of the reasons I was drawn to the Here 24/7 service was because of the frustration I experienced when trying to access service on behalf of the people I supported. It can be very discouraging for someone who needs support and assistance to be told they need to do this first and then go there and do that. It was a constant ping pong for them,” Megan explained. “Now, with one door and one service, we do all of that legwork for them. It decreases the person’s frustration and the likelihood that they will drop out of the system; it also increases the likelihood they will get the service they need, when they need it.”
Sometimes that means supporting clients on the phone, other times Megan goes out to meet them “where they are at”, whether that’s in hospital, a shelter, on the street, or in their home. “To me, it’s about making sure their voice is heard. We don’t tell the person what to do – we ask them what they want and how we can help them get there. That’s holding the person at the core of it. It’s their life, I’m just walking with them.”
The Waterloo Wellington LHIN provides the funding for Here 24/7 to help more residents access the addictions and mental health care they need, when they need it. This program is one example of how health service providers, in partnership with the WWLHIN, are integrating care to improve quality and make it easier and more consistent for residents across Waterloo Wellington.
Meet Jennifer Breaton, Waterloo Wellington Stroke Program Director
At 16 years-old, Jennifer Breaton lost her younger brother to ewing’s sarcoma cancer. Her family spent four years at SickKids Hospital with her brother. It was at that point that Jennifer knew health care and nursing were her passions: “That experience of seeing first-hand the care my brother received in hospital changed my life and it changed my view of health care. It made me realize how much of an impact a nurse could have on somebody’s life.”
It was therefore, an easy decision for Jennifer to study nursing after graduating from Our Lady of Lourdes in Guelph. Upon completing a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of New Brunswick in 1998, she joined Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital, a local community hospital as a Registered Nurse. Two years later, Jennifer joined SickKids Hospital in Toronto, caring for children before and after their organ transplants.
Over the years Jennifer gravitated to positions that had her managing larger projects. Jennifer’s career has taken her around the world- to work with patients, health care teams and policy makers – including Sri Lanka, Amsterdam, England, Bangladesh and India. It was shortly after these experiences that Jennifer decided to continue with her studies: “I’d worked with so many patients and families over the years that needed the system to change in order for them to realize the full health benefits they needed and in order to do that, I needed to learn how I could impact the policy and decision makers to help move system change forward. I was very proud that in 2010, I completed my Master’s Degree in Health Administration at the University of Toronto while working full time at SickKids and then Sunnybrook Hospital.”
While finishing her graduate studies, in November 2009, Jennifer began as the Program Manager of the University of Toronto Stroke Program, collaboration between three organizations based out of Sunnybrook Hospital: “We were doing a lot of stroke work improvement work in Toronto that Waterloo Wellington was talking about. So, I was very fortunate that when I was deciding to move from Sunnybrook, a similar position opened up here two years ago.”
As she was born and raised in Guelph, Jennifer didn’t hesitate to move back to Waterloo which brought her closer to home: “I wear two hats - Operational Director at Grand River Hospital with a dedicated budget and staffing for our acute Stroke and Rehab Units and then I’m also the Waterloo Wellington Stroke Program Director. That means that I help to lead the stroke system across our LHIN- ensuring that all our hospitals are providing the same top notch quality stroke care no matter where a resident lives.”
Jennifer describes her current work as one of the most rewarding experiences in her career, “I’m so lucky to have this job. We really started two years ago with a big red score card. We had a lot of performance issues. We were not meeting benchmarks. Patients were not doing as well as others in the province.”
After hearing from stroke survivors and community members about the need to improve stroke services, leaders and care providers from the WWLHIN, hospitals and health service organizations across Waterloo Wellington came together and built an integrated stroke program. “Now, we deliver the same care in the region no matter where you are and our mortality rates are below the provincial benchmark. Because of the changes we’ve made every single WWLHIN resident now goes to a specialized stroke unit and 100 per cent have access to specialized rehab care. That is something I’m very proud of.”
She goes on to say: “Right now we have two specialized acute stroke units in Guelph and Kitchener which serve 800 to 900 stroke patients every year. We have really built a program of excellence and brought care closer to home.”
The Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network (WWLHIN) provides most of the funding for Stroke Services in Waterloo Wellington. Its Board made a decision in August 2013 to support the integration of stroke services in the region.
One of the things Jennifer speaks about passionately is the Stroke Navigator, who tracks at any given time how many stroke patients are in the system and which services are available: “We know where all the patients are, it doesn’t matter which hospital you are at. The patient experience should be seamless as they move around our system.”
Given the success of the program, Jennifer and her team organized a mosaic of stroke event in June 2014 and invited patients to share their recovery stories: “We have built beautiful storyboards with patients narrating their journey about the impact caregivers had on them and their families. It is my hope that the stories will not only inspire other patients but also our nurses and therapists who also have hard and sad days.”
For Jennifer, she believes it’s once in a career that she can get an opportunity to lead a program that sets the bar for what other integrated programs could look like in Waterloo Wellington. Asked what she has learned from this program Jennifer says: “First, dream big but get started. Don’t wait for it to be perfect, you have to start somewhere. Secondly, put the patient at the centre of everything. We must keep asking patients and their families if we are making the right decisions because sometimes what we are planning might not be what the patients value.”
When Jennifer is not visiting hospitals or meeting with patients, you can find her exploring the region as since moving from Toronto she certainly loves the “lack of traffic” and cannot believe how she can get anywhere she wants to be in less than 30 minutes - be it the gym, library or picking up some groceries. You can also find her walking her small dog, exploring local parks and trails or home spending time with her family.
Original story with contact and photography information.