Excelerator E-Newsletter Logo

November 2020

Message from VHA’s President and CEO, Carol Annett

Carol Annett of VHA

Greetings to all VHA’s partners, colleagues and friends. We are pleased to bring you this first digital edition of Excelerator, a newsletter providing updates on the latest developments from across VHA and the communities we serve. We hope you will find it valuable and interesting.

These past months have been such a difficult time for so many and COVID-19 has brought much uncertainty into all our lives. And yet in the midst of it all, there have been heartwarming rays of sunshine: the way partners have come together to share information and seek innovative solutions, the new methods of delivering care that have taken root to address current circumstances, and above all, how frontline health and community care providers have continued to provide care to the most vulnerable among us.

Thank you for your ongoing partnership and for all you continue to do during this challenging time.

Take care and be well,

Carol Annett
President & CEO, VHA Home HealthCare

VHA Heart in Mind Toolkit Provides a New Way to Empower Caregivers and Clients Affected by Dementia

Screenshot of the Heart in Mind Module

VHA Home HealthCare’s Heart in Mind Activation Therapy program was made available to VHA staff, services providers, our clients and their families as well as all health care providers on October 1st, 2020 – hoping to provide new and creative ways to engage loved ones and clients living with dementia.

Heart in Mind Activation Therapy is a free online toolkit designed to provide practical ideas to engage with clients living with dementia in a meaningful way. The module provides easy access to feelings-based communication and activity ideas to empower families, personal support workers, therapists and other health care providers to stimulate the body and mind.

“With this project, we aspire to empower caregivers to better understand the role of feelings in dementia and to help them use this knowledge to enhance their person centered care,” says Brandi D’Souza, co-creator of Heart in Mind and Physiotherapist with VHA Home HealthCare (VHA).

Heart in Mind was born and developed with the help of a grant from Baycrest’s Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation and was developed by Brandi D’Souza together with co-creators VHA Occupational Therapists Motria Sabat and Wilfred Leung.

VHA celebrates one year of reducing hallway medicine on Sunnybrook’s ED One team

On October 28th, 2019, a new program made its debut in the emergency department of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Sunnybrook ED One team huddle

The program is known as ED One, and it was created with one primary goal – to reduce the number of seniors receiving care in the hospital hallway and get them home safely. To accomplish this goal, a streamlined interdisciplinary team was formed to assess patient needs and connect patients with the necessary supports to stay healthy in the community. VHA has been an essential piece of this puzzle since day one.

“The ED One program allows patients who may have otherwise been admitted to hospital to return home more quickly with added supports,” says VHA’s Sandra Wilczynska, Home Care Navigator with ED One.”

“By supporting these patients, we alleviate the stress on the Emergency (ED) department and free up hospital beds.”

The ED One team consists of both a hospital and community social worker, geriatric emergency medicine nurse, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, community care coordinator, psychogeriatric case manager, a community mental health specialist and staff from home care agencies VHA, Spectrum Health Care and SE Health.

After a daily huddle to discuss cases, the team usually works with an average of eight to 10 patients a day.

“We bring the expertise of the community to the hospital environment and help the whole team get a better sense of patient life after discharge,” says ED One team member Stacie-Ann London, RPN and VHA Personal Support Supervisor.

VHA launches Virtual Hoarding Support to help isolated clients amid COVID-19

With in-person gatherings at an all-time low, isolation has become a challenge for many as physical distancing measures in Ontario continue in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Isolation is even more difficult for vulnerable populations, like those living with hoarding disorder. For severe cases, the disorder can create unsafe living environments, further alienation from friends and family, and potential risk of eviction.

For those who identify as living with hoarding disorder, help through organizations like VHA is absolutely essential. That’s why VHA launched virtual Hoarding Support Services, to help clients stay safe, give them a way to stay connected, find community, and continue working toward their goals throughout the pandemic.

Diana Opolski

“Decluttering is a journey,” says Hoarding Services Client Diana Opolski. “For years, I couldn’t tackle it. I was stuck.”

Diana was one of many clients left feeling unsure if she would continue to receive support during the pandemic. In an effort to respond to the changing needs in the community and keep everyone as safe as possible, VHA’s Community Support team quickly switched gears to begin providing virtual support to clients in need.

The team is now running telephone coaching sessions to guide clients through their decluttering and keep them on track throughout lockdown. They also invited clients to join a new virtual workshop group to share lived experiences with each other and go through exercises to help achieve their goals at home.

VHA Paediatric and Palliative teams explore caregiver resiliency through virtual interprofessional education days

This month, VHA Home HealthCare passed two impressive interprofessional education milestones. VHA’s Paediatric team held its fourth annual education symposium, also known as PIES Day.
Screenshot of Amy Archer's presentation at PALLIES

PIES had been such a success in previous years that the palliative team joined in and hosted the first-ever Palliative Interprofessional Education Symposium, thoughtfully named PALLIES Day. This year’s events took place virtually.

“The event has come so far in four years. Regardless of how we’re meeting, I’m personally delighted that PIES lives on,” shares Kathryn Nichol, Vice President Quality, Best Practice, Research and Education and Chief Nursing Executive at VHA. “And I’m thrilled that we are taking the success of the paediatric symposium to our well-deserved, spectacular palliative team.”

“In our new world of integrated care and Ontario Health Teams, we are working together often, but it’s really nice to be learning together as well,” she adds.

This year’s PIES and PALLIES theme was Resiliency. In addition to VHA clients and their family members and VHA’s interprofessional paediatric and palliative teams, keynote speakers from the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care, SickKids Hospital, and the Region of Durham were also invited to tune in and share learnings with the group.

Participants Needed for Stay Connected Research Study to Support Healthy Communities

Poster with Stay Connected text
VHA’s Research team is looking for participants in Stay Connected: A Research Study to Support Healthy Communities. Did you know 60% of those living with dementia will experience at least one critical wandering event? These can have serious consequences for clients and causes significant stress for caregivers. VHA wants to explore the use of locating technology in decreasing worry and stress for caregivers, and we’re looking for participants to be a part of our study!