More health support for seniors after stay

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Seniors who visited the Sturgeon Community Hospital emergency department over the past year were part of a pilot project that was so successful, it has expanded to Edmonton hospitals.

When seniors visited the hospital’s emergency department, they were assessed and treated as always, but when appropriate, upon discharge, they were also given referrals to home care and other community supports.

“The project started with a grant that provided funds for a nurse, who worked right in the emergency room and provided support to seniors, especially those most at risk, such as those who may have had a fall, had several medications, or perhaps those who lived alone,” said Carleen Brenneis, director of transition services for Alberta Health Services.

The pilot project at the Sturgeon Hospital was part of a similar survey conducted at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton, as well as at sites in Calgary and Red Deer.

On average, 209 seniors per month visited Sturgeon Community Hospital over the course of the project, with approximately 40 of those per month being referred to home care.

“The goal was to refer seniors needing long-term care services and to connect people back to where they live,” said Gail Blanchard, area manager for Home Care St. Albert.

The project showed that the average age of the seniors assessed at the hospital was 78. Fifty per cent of those needed home care; 20 per cent lived alone or had no caregiver available and 30 per cent had visited the emergency department within the previous month.

Many seniors had one or more chronic conditions but still only required a little help to stay in their own homes. Once the seniors got that help, they had fewer re-admissions to the hospital, Brenneis said.

“Sometimes the client doesn’t realize what he needs and seniors come back frequently for the same things. This program provides support and it helps to identify risks as well as where there may be gaps in their support,” said Blanchard.

The pilot project was deemed a success because it increased home care referrals from eight to 15 per cent.

Blanchard stressed that the goal was not to change hospital admissions, but instead to provide better support to seniors in the community, especially those needing chronic disease management.

“It provides an opportunity for us to give information first-hand to seniors and many of them can remain safe and independent as long as they have those supports. The program has been a success for our clients and for the health care system,” Blanchard said.

Earlier this year the Emergency to Home initiative was expanded to include the University of Alberta Hospital and the Grey Nuns Community Hospital, and it is expected to begin soon at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

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About Author

Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.