A holistic approach for managing osteoporosis

When Amanda Owen was diagnosed with , about a decade ago, she knew she had a lot to learn. At the time, Owen — who had just completed treatment for breast cancer — found the amount of available information overwhelming.

“It can be hard to retain all the details,” says Owen. “It’s so important to find a team that can support you. You need to feel looked after on a journey like this.”

Luckily, in Owen’s case, she was referred to the Centre for Osteoporosis & Bone Health at Women’s College Hospital. From there, the centre’s interprofessional team presented her with the information most relevant to her situation and began guiding her.

Osteoporosis is a significant concern to many seniors, especially women. The condition, which occurs in a quarter of women older than 50, increases the risk of bone fractures.

The Centre for Osteoporosis & Bone at Women’s College Hospital is unique in that it takes a holistic approach to managing bone health. Their team includes: an athletic therapist, bone densitometry technologists, a clinical nurse specialist, an occupational therapist, a pharmacist, a physical therapist, physician specialists, a registered dietitian, a telemedicine nurse and a telemedicine coordinator.

Many patients, including Owen, are pleasantly surprised by the team’s attentiveness. It’s common for Owen to discuss her current diet, physical capability and exercise routines with health care providers at the centre.

“Osteoporosis involves several aspects of a patient’s life. Our team looks at the full picture,” says Dr. Sandra Kim, medical director at the Centre. “We discuss improving posture and balance, building muscle strength and managing diets as well as medication. All of these factors are important to preventing falls and fractures.”

Owen also enjoys the Centre for Osteoporosis & Bone Health’s collaborative approach. It’s typical for the team to consult each other before addressing an issue raised by a patient. Owen said that she likes how the team considers her personal circumstances and medical history before presenting her with options.

“Patients feel that their comments and questions produce a clear and immediate response about their best options,” says Owen. “The team really makes sure you are looked after.”

Another welcome surprise for Owen was the Centre for Osteoporosis & Bone Health’s six-week strength-building exercise program — which includes squats, push-ups and  head and shoulder presses — specially designed for patients with osteoporosis. Owen, who recently completed the program, was well-prepared for her recent biking trip in Cape Cod.

Most importantly, Owen credits the centre for introducing her to many useful techniques for staying safe. As a chronic condition, osteoporosis requires constant self-management. The team at the Centre for Osteoporosis & Bone Health makes it a point to identify resources local to patients and to provide educational material. (For individuals living in under-serviced and remote communities in northern Ontario, the centre also offers a telemedicine program.)

With the help of athletic therapist Heather Robinson, and others at the centre, Owen has adopted techniques for lifting and bending correctly and maintaining proper sitting posture to prevent compression fractures, among other useful practices.

“The team at Women’s College Hospital always encourages me to get it right,” adds Owen. “They tailor their care. They look for ways to help me manage so that I succeed.”

From the outset, the Centre for Osteoporosis & Bone Health has held firm to its commitment to empowering patients. Recently, in November, the centre celebrated its 20th birthday and reflected on their evolution and work with patients over the years.

To celebrate the milestone, the team officially announced the centre’s new name (the group was formerly called the Multidisciplinary Osteoporosis Program) and ran an information booth in the main lobby of Women’s college Hospital, among other activities.

“We have a very strong team. They’ve shared a lot of important knowledge and supported so many patients in the last two decades,” says Dr. Sandra Kim, medical director, the Centre for Osteoporosis & Bone Health. “I am extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished and I’m excited about our future.”