How one client found a “lifeline” through VHA Virtual Care
Navigating a flight of stairs may not feel significant for some, but for leZlie lee kam (pictured above), it was a triumph that was achieved with support from virtual care services provided by VHA Home HealthCare (VHA).
leZlie is a VHA client and partner who was referred to virtual occupational therapy services late last year after a lengthy three-month stay in hospital and long-term care. leZlie had been admitted to recover and rehabilitate from a broken ankle after falling down a flight of stairs in June 2021.
leZlie identifies as a queer DYKE senior and lives with a physical disability which requires the use of a cane. The ankle injury also meant leZlie hadn’t been able to visit the home of an important friend who leZlie describes as a platonic partner, because the only bathroom in the friend’s home is at the bottom of a flight of stairs.
For leZlie, not being able to visit this chosen family member during the pandemic was incredibly difficult and isolating.
“I used to spend a lot of time in that home. And even though I practiced walking up and down stairs when I was in hospital, I was nervous I would fall down again. The stairs felt daunting,” shares leZlie.
When leZlie got the call from VHA Occupational Therapist (OT) Andrea Cook for a virtual visit, it was a pleasant surprise.
During the visit, Andrea conducted a standard virtual care assessment with leZlie, asking probing questions about existing conditions, challenges and even got a video tour around leZlie’s home to make sure the appropriate safety equipment, like grab bars, were in place to help leZlie navigate around the home easily and independently.
“It touched my heart that Andrea wanted to make my quality of life better,” says leZlie. It was what happened at the end of the visit that really made its mark on leZlie, though, when Andrea asked if there was any other support she could offer.
“I was worried that it would be way out of left field to ask for support at my platonic partner’s home so I could visit her again,” recalls leZlie, “but Andrea advocated for me and within 2 weeks a physiotherapist arranged an appointment to help me with those stairs to the bathroom.”
Andrea noted that it’s not always possible to get referrals for rehab services outside one’s own home. Home safety usually applies only to a primary residence. But Andrea was able to connect with leZlie’s Home and Community Care Support Services coordinator and successfully obtained a referral for physiotherapy thanks to her virtual assessment.
“During the pandemic, many people, and especially 2SLGBTQI seniors, have experienced isolation like never before and they need to be able to manage the spaces to see their main contacts who are a big resource to them,” says Andrea. “It was a matter of quality of life for leZlie.”
“Without realizing it, VHA has given me a lifeline and given me hope. It’s made my life brighter and better by being given that opportunity to navigate a flight of stairs,” says leZlie. “It might not seem like a lot, but it means a lot because it’s changed my life to being able to spend quality time with my friend again.”