Mental health care closer to home

Margareta Rawlins was a bit anxious but mostly excited when she heard her husband, who was receiving care atSt. Joseph’s Regional Mental Health Care London (RMHCL) was going to be transferred to a hospital close to their home town ofCambridge. “Edward had really good care at RMHCL, so I was a bit nervous when I thought of him transferring to a new place, hoping his care would be as good as what he received atSt. Joseph’s.”

Margareta’s husband, Edward, had already had a long journey before he arrived at RMHCL. An early onset of Alzheimer’s had resulted in some issues and the nursing home caring for him inCambridgewas not equipped to handle his specialized care. At that time, in 2008, Waterloo Region did not have a facility to support Edward’s care so he was sent to the geriatric psychiatry program inLondon. “I was so impressed with the staff at RMHCL,” says Margareta. “I knew things were going to get better for my husband.” After a short time Edward’s medication was adjusted, his condition improved and he was doing very well.

In the fall of 2010 a transformative step began for mental health care inSouthwestern Ontario. In the past, patients were sent to both RMHC London andSt. Thomasfor care from across the region. With the Health Care Restructuring Commission directives (developed in 1997) people started to transfer to hospitals in their home communities – and these hospitals now had the new capability to support patients with mental illness.

For RMHC, the first divestment of four was toGrand RiverHospitalinKitchener- a huge undertaking for staff, patients and families. For Margareta, her husband was simply moving closer to home. Currently RMHC is in the middle of the second transfer – with patients, beds, staff and resources transferring toWindsorRegionalHospital.

“Having patients cared for closer to home means they get to spend more time with family and friends and remain acquainted with their community and surroundings,” says Dr. Sarah Jarmain, site chief at RMHC. “Having friends, family and community involvement is paramount to the mental health recovery process. It keeps people motivated and engaged giving them perspective and goals they can achieve.”

Margareta knows first-hand the benefit of having family near.  “I was really happy with the care at RMHC, but not happy with the drive,” says Margareta, who would take the hour long drive twice a week to visit her husband. “Sometimes the roads were really treacherous in the winter; it was difficult to get there as often as I wanted.” Now she travels 10 minutes down the road. “Having my husband closer to home has tripled the amount of time I spend with him!”

Margareta believes after all this change Edward is in a good place. “His quality of life is the best it can be – and I am spending more time with him, rather than in the car.”