Jenny’s Story: A lesson in how health self-management empowers Canadians with chronic health issues

Chances are someone you know is living with at least one chronic health condition. In Canada alone there are close to 20-million individuals with a chronic condition; many whom require ongoing attention and care to manage their health.Some of these affected Canadians can easily access care and support services but others avoid the hospital or don’t have the means or mobility to seek medical care, including some of Canada’s 5-million seniors, half of whom live independently[1].

Fortunately, there is an alternative when one can’t or doesn’t want to go to the doctor’s office or hospital. A growing number of seniors in Ontario are taking advantage of new technology to help them manage their health in the comfort of their own home.

What is Telehomecare?

Managed by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) and funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Telehomecare is offered free of charge to clients of the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) and other CCACs throughout the province. The Toronto Central CCAC helps individuals stay in their home longer by coordinating care in the community and providing care in the home, like the use of Telehomecare.

Telehomecare supports people living with chronic health conditions to self-manage their care in their own homes with the assistance of a Telehomecare Nurse Coordinator who remotely monitors a patient’s health and provides regular health coaching. Each day, the patient uses special equipment to check blood pressure, weight, heart rate and pulse and answers simple questions about their health. The Telehomecare Nurse Coordinator reviews these daily submissions and regularly connects with the primary care provider to talk about the patient’s progress.

To-date the Toronto Central CCAC has supported more than 300,000 seniors to stay in their homes independently using a variety of in-home services including Telehomecare. Ninety-one year old Jenny is a just one example of the excellent and timely care clients can receive without leaving home.

Jenny’s Story

There aren’t many people who are 91 years old who are as impressive as Jenny. Jenny lives alone and manages her life extremely well with some assistance from the Toronto Central CCAC.  She has lived in the same Toronto apartment for 42 years and has a great network of family and friends in her neighbourhood. Fiercely independent, Jenny loves living on her own and like many seniors has dismissed her doctor’s suggestion that she move in with family.

Despite having some health problems, such as chronic heart failure, Jenny enjoys a good quality of life by eating well and being active. Realizing that “visiting the doctor is getting harder,” Jenny decided to explore health care options that would allow her to maintain her independence, like Telehomecare.

Like some seniors when confronted with technology, Jenny was initially apprehensive about participating in the Telehomecare program, “I didn’t even have a computer in my home,” Jenny remarked. But after some help from the Telehomecare team Jenny is now able to check herself five days a week, “it’s so simple and it takes less than five minutes each day!” she added.

At one point while enrolled in the Telehomecare program, Jenny started to feel unwell. She became extremely short of breath, fatigued and was unable to go on her regular walks. Tracking her vital signs, her Telehomecare Nurse Coordinator was concerned about Jenny’s symptoms and low pulse rates and contacted Jenny’s health care providers, including her heart specialist, and advocated for Jenny to be seen and suggested that her pacemaker needed to be re-assessed.

Soon after getting the attention she needed, Jenny’s pulse returned to normal and she began feeling like her regular self, going out to community events and resuming her walking. “I felt like someone had lifted something off me. (Telehomecare) is a very good thing and really wonderful for me,” she said.

For the Toronto Central CCAC empowering seniors like Jenny with tools to monitor their health conditions at home is crucial as it provides a sense of independence and allows individuals to healthy at home for longer. As well, active monitoring – like in Jenny’s case – can prevent a major health episode and save the health system thousands by eliminating EMS calls and emergency room visits. Telehomecare offers an excellent patient care and experience.

If you or someone you know suffers from chronic heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Telehomecare is an option to explore. Contact Toronto Central CCAC at 416-217-3841 for more information.

About Toronto Central CCAC: We are homecare. We help people find their way through Ontario’s health care system; help them understand their health care options and help connect them to community-based healthcare and local resources.

[1] 2011 Statistics Canada Census