Hamilton Health Sciences Reaches Out to Seniors in the Community

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Over the past eight years many of Hamilton’s seniors have learned to take control of their health and well-being at Seniors’ Day, an annual event presented by Seniors’ Health at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). Health care professionals from HHS and partner community agencies encourage seniors to take an active role in their health by asking questions and becoming more aware of ways they can influence their health.

The free series has focused on everything from nutrition and herbal remedies to fraud and sexuality. A long-standing partnership with the local police force has brought valuable safety and protection information to seniors. Attendees have learned from the misfortune of others involved in telemarketing and home improvement frauds. Last year a physician urged seniors to ask their doctors lots of questions, particularly when it comes to medication. Seniors should be well-aware of what medication they’re taking, why they’re taking it, how it may interact with other medications, and what possible side-effects to expect.

“This is a grassroots initiative spearheaded by the health professionals in the seniors program,” said Esther Coker, Seniors’ Health Program Clinical Nurse Specialist, HHS. “More people get involved every year because we feel it is so important to bring educational and preventative information out into the community. We’re hoping through our health promotion efforts we’ll see our participants at the next Seniors’ Day event rather than in our clinics and hospitals.”

The afternoon event is geared towards seniors living in the community and aims to enhance the health and well-being of older adults through education and prevention – helping them enjoy a greater quality of life by taking charge of their health so they can continue to live in their homes as long as possible. The topics presented are suggested by previous participants and by the teams who work with seniors in the inpatient, ambulatory, outreach and acute consultation services offered through Seniors Health at HHS. The health professionals who generally work with frail, older persons and help them reintegrate into the community take Seniors’ Day as an opportunity to send a message about prevention.

Seniors’ Day is an opportunity for HHS to become more active in and aware of the community’s health-care needs. It is also a chance to show the community the services and expertise available at our hospitals. Some of the participants come for their own information, but many come for direction when assuming caregiver roles with elderly friends and relatives.

Announcements in local papers and flyers in grocery stores and seniors’ residences draw participants from across Hamilton to well-known, convenient locations with easy accessibility. Guests have the opportunity to speak with numerous health professionals including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, registered practical nurses, physicians and dietitians. Booths display information about adaptive aids for daily living, mobility aids, hip guards, senior friendly phones, osteoporosis, incontinence, Meals on Wheels and other local agencies.

HHS sees Seniors’ Day as another valuable opportunity to raise awareness about seniors and seniors’ health in the hospital and the community. Many of our hospital employees are caregivers for aging parents and relatives.

“It is extremely important that all health professionals are aware of and address the issues pertinent to seniors,” said Dr. Christopher Patterson, Chief Geriatric Services, HHS. “Creating a senior-friendly environment within our hospitals will not only make older adults feel more comfortable, but also greatly improve their outcomes.”

In developing a new rehabilitation centre at the Hamilton General Hospital, HHS is committed to creating a senior-friendly environment. Part of establishing a senior-friendly environment requires attention to physical details, like signage, accessibility, and use of colour. More importantly, health-care providers must be educated and trained to understand, anticipate, recognize, diagnose and treat conditions prevalent in the senior population.

“In our efforts to educate and inform our community, we have created invaluable relationships and partnerships that lead our program’s development,” said Esther Coker. “As a program, we aim to safely integrate seniors back into the community, but as a community partner, we aim to prevent the conditions that bring seniors and their families to our hospital.”

Seniors’ Day will be held on June 14, 2002. For further information please contact (905) 521-2100 ext. 77113 or ext. 77969.