New stepping stone to help ease transition to more independent lifestyle for patients

Those of us who have moved from one home to another know the stress and upheaval it can cause in our lives. For patients who have been admitted to a mental health facility as part of their recovery, the challenges of moving from hospital to a new home can be overwhelming. St. Joseph’s Regional Mental Health Care in St. Thomas has created a new stepping stone to help ease the transition to a more independent style of living for patients. Caregivers have set up an apartment, complete with living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom where patients can move to and practice living on their own before taking the step of moving back in to the community.

A team of nurses and occupational therapists help patients learn new day-to-day living skills and brush up on the old skills that generally aren’t used while in hospital such as budgeting and structuring their day. In the apartment, caregivers can provide medication prompts if necessary, assessments, and counseling to ensure patients are well and safe, while increasingly managing daily life on their own.

For many patients, organizing a grocery trip from start to finish can be challenging. The team works together with the apartment dweller to relearn such skills as, meal planning, writing grocery lists, going to the grocery store, choosing the appropriate food and making sure they have enough money to pay.

Patients who live in the apartment have their own key and come and go as they please. They decide when to get up and go to bed, when and what to eat and how they use their leisure time. Stuart Chatterson spent four months in the apartment. With the help of his primary care nurse Amy Kidder and occupational therapist (OT) Maureen Ellis, Stuart relearned many day to day skills and some new ones as well. “My time spent in the apartment really helped me to get used to doing things for myself, says Stuart. “It was helpful for me to already be comfortable looking after myself, before I moved back to the community.”

“This has been an incredible learning experience for me and the team” says Amy. “We have been able to see the full scope of abilities that OTs can offer and as nurses, expand our knowledge and skills as well. It has been a lot of fun to see the self-confidence and independence that clients feel while living there. They are very proud to showcase their skills and abilities.”

“In addition to all the skills I learned in the apartment, it was great for me to be able to spend time alone,” says Stuart. “I also really liked that I could have my family over to visit in my own apartment.”