Specialized geriatrics at Providence Care

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Frequently, as one ages, managing activities of daily life can become challenging as health concerns and problems become increasingly complex. Providence Care St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital in Kingston, Ontario, offers a Specialized Geriatrics program (SG) for seniors in southeastern Ontario* facing such challenges. SG helps seniors who are experiencing difficulty getting around, fear of or recent falls, medication concerns, recent changes in coping ability, recent changes in social supports and/or caregiver stress, multiple hospital admissions, visits to the Emergency Department or family physician, changes in mood, memory or thinking as part of other health changes, and/or unexplained changes in health status.

The main goal of SG is to provide optimal care in the assessment, treatment and short-term rehabilitation of seniors by minimizing frailty and improving their functional capacity, independence and quality of life.

Patients referred to Specialized Geriatrics typically come from either Kingston General Hospital or from the community. Those who come from Kingston General Hospital are generally referred by the attending physician and are usually recovering from surgery or a significant medical illness. While at the hospital, a member of SG’s Acute Care Consult Service meets with them for an assessment of their rehabilitation potential. Those who come from the community are generally referred by their family physician and are seen in their home by an SG Outreach Assessor. The Assessor completes a comprehensive geriatric assessment and makes a recommendation as to what SG service, if any, would be appropriate. When necessary, recommendations to other community services are made to assist the person in their home.

Both inpatients and outpatients of Specialized Geriatrics benefit from the expertise of a caring, committed and compassionate multidisciplinary team of health professionals. Team members may include medicine, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, psychology, speech language pathology, pharmacy, nutrition, recreation therapy, spiritual care, as well as various health sciences students and many valuable volunteers.

All rehabilitation services available through Specialized Geriatrics are aimed at facilitating patient recovery and autonomy by maximizing functional ability. Types of rehabilitation are numerous and diverse, from therapists educating patients about the use of mobility equipment and adaptive aids, safe medication use or guiding patients through a restorative exercise regimen to mood and cognition testing.

The Day Hospital makes rehabilitation an enjoyable and social experience. Patients may join together to cook and bake in the specially designed (accessible) kitchen or participate in fun activities. For instance, last summer, Day Hospital patients created a beautiful quilt which won 2nd prize at the Kingston Exhibition. In February, Recreational Therapy organized their own 2010 Olympics with patients participating in events geared towards improving mobility and hand-eye coordination.

Before discharge, SG makes every effort to ensure patients have had all their health issues treated. “In an acute care hospital staff tend to focus on the health problem that brought the person into hospital or issues that flare up during the stay,” says Clinical Leader, Dr. Chris Frank. “Whereas here a patient may be admitted for falls, but we’ll look at their diabetes, medications, etc., and take a more rehab-based approach to discharge planning.”

Upon discharge from the inpatient unit, a patient may be referred to Day Hospital where therapy can continue on an outpatient basis. By offering groups such as Healthy Living & Falls Prevention, Caregiver Support Group and Seniors Coping with Change, SG also provides assistance and support by ensuring patients, family or other caregivers are properly equipped to manage the situation. SG can also provide follow-up assistance, if necessary, with access to other community services.

Specialized Geriatrics was originally known as the Southeastern Regional Geriatric Program. It began in 1991 as one of Ontario’s five Regional Geriatric Programs all attached to Health Science Centres (the other four are located in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and London). Although it underwent a name change in 2005, SG continues to be an active member of the RGPs of Ontario Network (www.rgps.on.ca). The services provided by each of the provincial RGPs are similar but have evolved in their own unique way. However, they share the same fundamental goal, to optimize the health, independence and quality of life of seniors with complex health problems.

Specialized Geriatrics is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, covered by OHIP and free-of-charge. Anyone can make a referral, however family physicians must approve the referral. Seniors without a family physican are welcome to contact SG to discuss their options regarding geriatric assessment.

For further information or to make a referral, contact Specialized Geriatrics Central Intake at 613-544-7767 or 1-800-214-5848.

* SG’s catchment area includes Hastings, Prince Edward, Lennox & Addington, Frontenac, Leeds & Grenville Counties and portions of Lanark and Northumberland Counties.