A word to the WISE

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For 62-year-old Patricia Hastings, life hasn’t always been easy. And when her husband passed away, Hastings’ world was forever changed. Left to live alone with no children or extended family members to rely on, her health and well-being began to deteriorate.

“I was extremely lonely and depressed,” says Hastings. “I wasn’t eating well and often neglected to take the medication I needed to control my Type 1 diabetes. I noticed that my memory wasn’t what it had been, and my performance at work began to suffer.”

Hastings’ arthritis also started to impact her mobility, and she even experienced hallucinations.

An endocrinologist who was treating Hastings at the time referred her to Women’s College Hospital’s Wellness for Independent Seniors Program (WISE). Developed to provide support and counselling to community-dwelling seniors and their families, WISE offered Hastings hope.

An initial consultation with the team, including program co-ordinator Jenna Egan, physiotherapist Tania Obljubek, social worker Lina Jobanputra and dietitian Kinga Balogh, revealed that Hastings was suffering from multiple co-morbidities and social isolation. A treatment plan was created, including weekly physiotherapy sessions and appointments with a psychiatrist.

The WISE team, which also includes Dr. Maithili Shetty and specialized ambulatory care administrative leader Cris Barrett, helped Hastings find affordable housing and referred her to a financial planner.

Nearly three years later, Hastings’ life has done a 180 and she is now living in an assisted living facility just around the corner from Women’s College Hospital.

“I couldn’t be happier,” she says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for the guidance and support from WISE.”

Hastings is just one of many WISE patients—90 per cent of whom are women. They include people who experience social isolation or memory loss, who have suffered an injury due to a fall, or who require community and social support in an acute care setting. The team also sees patients who need to prevent health complications from occurring down the road. This might include fall prevention, memory strategy, long-term care planning and exercise.

“Our job is to assess the patient’s situation, determine what difficulties they are having, and then create a treatment plan,” says Obljubek. “The goal is to refocus and empower patients. We want them to understand that they have a lot of living left to do, and that they don’t have to be miserable doing it.”

Hastings is part of an increasing demographic in Canada: seniors will constitute an estimated 22.2 per cent of the population by 2031. This means that programs like WISE will serve an increasingly important role in providing independent seniors with the resources they require to live a happy, healthy life.

“Many seniors often feel that society has forgotten about them,” says Jobanputra. “They need to know that there are support services out there, and that their quality of life can be drastically improved with a little help and guidance.”

For Hastings, the future is bright. Now happily settled in her new home at Collegeview Supportive Housing, she spends her days exercising with friends, playing with her cat, and planning for her future. Her new motto: “Live life to the fullest.”