Photo courtesy of North York Mirror
Article originally published by the North York Mirror/Toronto Star on August 12 2021 by reporter Andrew Palamarchuk
Debora Kaufman had low blood pressure and low oxygen levels when she was admitted to hospital after a fall at her North York home one morning in late December.
By the evening, the senior’s condition had deteriorated, and her son Yuli Kaufman was asked to come to North York General Hospital (NYGH) to say his goodbyes.
“They said she can die during the night or in the morning,” Yuli recalled. “We said goodbye, and we went home.”
But Debora beat the odds. The following afternoon, Yuli was told by a doctor that his mom’s condition had “surprisingly improved.”
Debora, now 93, was hospitalized for six weeks, during which time she also battled COVID-19, according to her son.
Toward the end of her hospital stay, in early February, Debora was connected with North York CARES (Community Access to Resources Enabling Support), a new home care program that enables patients with complex needs to return home while they wait for a bed in long-term care or another setting.
While in the program, Debora received 24-hour PSW (personal support worker) care and medical equipment for her home, along with a hearing amplifier, a headset and a tablet.
Debora, who came to Canada from Ukraine 21 years ago, doesn’t speak English well. The tablet contained a translation program that allowed her to communicate with her PSWs, Yuli, 64, explained. “They even sent a physiotherapist (who) gave PSWs instructions on what kind of exercises to do with my mother to improve her mobility.”
Debora received home care for more than three months before moving in mid-May to a long-term-care home where she currently lives.
Yuli, who works long hours as a truck driver, said he’s thankful his mom was able to be home during that transition period.
“(Being) home was better than (being in) hospital, and she recovered more, and she looked better,” Yuli said. “Without them (services provided by North York CARES), I don’t know what I would be doing.”
North York CARES, launched in mid-December, is run by North York Toronto Health Partners, which includes NYGH and non-profit home care organization VHA Home HealthCare. So far, 25 patients have participated in the program, which received just under $1 million in government funding.
The program is “keeping people out of hospital,” which is especially important during the pandemic, when patient volumes are a concern, NYGH hospital spokesperson Andrea Piunno said in an email. “It provides care and support for patients, who would otherwise be in hospital, so they can safely stay at home.”
Susan Chang, a VHA Home HealthCare director and a North York CARES leader, said the program was created following a “thorough analysis” of what services currently exist for seniors. “The health care system has been experiencing a lot of challenges because of the aging population, and with an aging population, you have a lot of people that have growing needs of complex care,” she said. “We can’t function the way we have been over the past 10, 20 years. … We have to come together as an entire region of resources and have this one program where patients can access all of us together.”
North York CARES offers “seamless, tailored care” and works with patients and caregivers to determine what supports are needed, including virtual care devices, telemonitoring, community support services, community paramedicine supports, addiction services, behavioural supports and caregivers supports such as respite care, according to NYGH.
“It was a chance for us to come together as a health care system … so that when patients receive care from us, they’re not scrambling to figure out who they’re supposed to talk to, when, (and) for what services,” Chang said. “Instead, we’re all together as a united front to offer what we can to support these patients.”
Chang said she hopes the program serves as a “testament to how integrated care can be, moving forward in our health care system.”