Providence Healthcare offers comforts of home to help families cope

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Elizabeth Dobson can easily remember beginning her day at Providence Hospital and finding the loved one of a patient catching a few winks in the Chapel. “There was this one elderly man in particular who would come every morning and stay all day to be by his wife’s side. He would sleep on the padded seats in our Chapel because there was nowhere else for him to go.”

Now there is. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Providence Hospital, families and caregivers have a tranquil retreat that in many ways has become a second home for them as they cope with the stress of having a loved one in Palliative Care.

Called the ‘Caregiver Room,’ this quiet space is furnished with the comforts of home including cozy sofas and chairs, soft lighting, books and movies to provide families and caregivers with a restful retreat away from the bedside.

“Supporting and caring for a loved one in Palliative Care is an extremely stressful and emotional experience. It is also exhausting,” says Elizabeth, who is one of four chaplains at Providence Healthcare. “After visiting a number of different facilities, we found that there wasn’t anything out there quite like this. We knew that this was an opportunity to do something innovative that our families and caregivers so desperately needed.”

Elizabeth, whose office is next door to the Caregiver Room, is also available to families looking for support and advice. “We want to be here in every way possible to not only care for our patients, but to support families and caregivers during a difficult time.”

Another innovative retreat at Providence Hospital is an Internet café, which opened in February 2005 to serve as a relaxing space for patients, families and caregivers to surf the net and keep in touch with family and friends.

Call them best practices – initiatives and programs that work for one organization that could easily be adopted at other health-care facilities to enhance care for patients and their families. These best practices underway at Providence Healthcare are sure to become a topic of conversation on a new Web site introduced by the Toronto Palliative Care Network (TPCN) that is paving the way for increased innovation in the field.

Providence Healthcare is one of 34 member organizations that regularly participates in TPCN initiatives and accesses its Web site. Launched this past September, the Web site highlights the services offered by each member organization and features a discussion board where members can share best practices, helpful information and ideas to improve the level of care and comfort of palliative patients.

Cathy Lacombe, clinical leader for the Palliative Care Unit at Providence, says she sees the value of sharing information with other network members to work toward coordinating palliative care services in Toronto.

“It is so important to get out there and see what is happening at other health-care centres so that we can learn new innovative ways to provide care for our patients,” says Cathy. “The Toronto Palliative Care Network is a useful forum of support that enables us to learn from others about what works and what doesn’t so that we can come away with strategies to enhance patient care within our individual units.”

A ‘Common Referral Form’ can also be found on the TPCN Web site, which can be accessed at www.tpcn.ca. This form offers applicants a standard format, which goes a long way in making the referral process much easier and more efficient.

“We work in a very challenging environment,” says Cathy. “Whatever can be done through the TPCN to support our units and our staff is most welcome. It is helpful to know that there are others out there who may have faced similar challenges and have solutions that they can share broadly to help others.”