HELPING SENIORS STAY OUT OF HOSPITAL AND REMAIN SAFE IN THEIR HOMES
At WoodGreen, our staff help seniors live independently and with dignity in their community. Our team works closely with physicians and other health and social agencies to provide wraparound care.
The Toronto Seniors Helpline launched in 2016 and has supported thousands of seniors and their caregivers in crisis together with partners from across the City of Toronto. This service takes the pressure off hospitals, 911 and 211 staff and offers another way for seniors to receive models of support at a time when they need it the most.
In addition to the regular calls for help in response to a crisis, mental health needs or connection to another agency or primary care, many of the new calls are coming in from seniors who are in need of food security, access to new government COVID-19 benefits, require screening for COVID-19 symptoms or are experiencing extreme social isolation.
“Our team saved lives and changed lives,” said Dr. Frances Morton-Chang, WoodGreen’s Director of Seniors Services. “When staff started calling clients weekly to check in and see how they were coping, it immediately became clear to the team that seniors were struggling with loneliness and isolation.”
WoodGreen also operates five busy Seniors Active Living Centres in Toronto’s East End. On any given day before the pandemic hit, large groups of seniors would gather to sing opera, enjoy congregate meals, exercise together and learn about how to improve their health from visiting teams from public health or local pharmacists.
The Community Care team took the essential elements of in-person programming and immediately modified those services to be delivered in a way people could still access. Staff quickly identified who was at risk, and which clients would need food, health and hygiene kits, masks, or even just a friendly visiting phone call to check in.
“The Meals on Wheels program delivered 200 times the amount of meals in the same time period,” said Richard Pitter, Manager of Transportation & Food Service. “The program offered more than a hot meal, it was a connection. Often our team was the only interaction an isolated individual would have all day.”
On top of the essential needs, we created modified virtual session and programs, including Chair Zumba, exercise programs, Short Story Club, virtual Town Hall and more, many delivered in multiple languages.
“COVID-19 has been hard for all of us, but being locked down took a tremendous toll on seniors who live alone and don’t have any support,” said Dr. Morton-Chang. “We knew they still needed us, and the interaction our programs provided. So basically overnight, we adapted our programs to go virtual, including providing hours of 1-1 tech support.”
Community agencies like WoodGreen have always played a crucial role keeping many seniors out of busy hospitals and Long Term Care by providing wraparound care and access to a basket of community services, bridging the gap between primary care and the community.