One-of-a-Kind Residential Unit “Next Best Thing to Home”

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An innovative unit at West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto is “home” to 26 people who are permanent residents of the Respiratory Continuing Care Service. Residents of the service share a number of things in common and benefit enormously from the exchanges with the service’s specially trained staff.

Established more than 20 years ago, West Park’s Respiratory Continuing Care Service is devoted to the care of individuals with severe respiratory conditions who can no longer live safely and comfortably in the community, explains Dr. Roger Goldstein, West Park respirologist and a Professor of Medicine and Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto.

“Our rationale in establishing this unit was to concentrate our resources in one area to improve care and maximize our collective knowledge of respiratory disease and its treatment,” says Dr. Goldstein. “There is a synergy that comes from our team approach. Everyone – staff and patients – learns from each other. Knowledge is shared.”

The Respiratory Continuing Care Service is just one part of the broad range of respiratory services offered at West Park, including rehabilitation and Day Hospital programs, a Chronic Assisted Ventilatory Care Service and a Home Ventilation Training Program. While many of these services are offered on an outpatient basis, continuing care sometimes becomes necessary for patients no longer able to function independently.

Yvette Jolicoeur has been a resident of the service for about a year. She has a severe respiratory condition and has depended upon a ventilator to assist her nighttime breathing for more than four years.

“I sleep much better since I came here,” says Yvette, who recognizes the advantages of being with other people who face similar health issues and knows that there is always someone close by, especially at night, if she has a problem. “I’m not so nervous as I was at home and if I can’t live at home, then this is the next best thing. I’m much happier.”

Bucking the general trend towards ambulatory care, this residential unit continues to be one of a kind in Ontario, with referrals accepted from across the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

Unlike general continuing care facilities, the Respiratory Continuing Care Service can admit individuals who require oxygen and/or mechanical ventilation to manage conditions such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pulmonary fibrosis. Previously, such individuals may have spent extensive periods in an intensive care unit. Because of the advanced understanding of respiratory diseases and the highly trained staff at West Park, the quality of life for these individuals can be greatly improved.

Although part of a health-care facility, the service boasts an open and airy living space, with easy access to the park-like surroundings of West Park’s 27-acre campus. With treatment programs designed to meet their specific needs, residents of West Park’s Respiratory Continuing Care Service have an ongoing opportunity to learn more about their conditions and maintain or improve their level of functioning and independence. They take part in regular rehabilitation programs as well as the centre’s many social and recreational activities.

Residents have also taken part in some clinical trials, such as the recent trial involving a walking aid for use by respiratory rehabilitation patients – adding their contribution to advances in the treatment of respiratory diseases.

West Park Healthcare Centre is the regional rehabilitation centre for adults living in the western Greater Toronto Area and is an important local provider of complex continuing and long-term care. The centre offers a broad range of inpatient and ambulatory care services in the fields of respiratory, cardiac, musculoskeletal/amputee, neurological and geriatric medicine. The centre is located in the Jane Street and Eglinton Avenue area.