A grassroots initiative by doctors in New Westminster and the Tri-Cities will improve the medical care and quality of life for seniors living in care homes.
The “Care by Design” program assigns family physicians to regularly tend to the 14 residential care facilities in the area. They’ll also be on-call for after hours care and emergencies.
The facilities are home to more than 1,400 seniors. Another two homes are scheduled to open later this year, adding 400 more seniors.
And while most of those residents have their own family doctor, it’s not always easy for those doctors to get away from their own practice to visit a patient in a care home that may be in another community, said Dr. Nick Petropolis, the medical director at Queen’s Park Care Centre.
That often means care by fax, said Dr. Petropolis. Routine medical problems sometimes have to be dealt with at hospital emergency wards, straining those facilities and stressing the residents.
“If they’re feeling bad, it can be addressed quickly,” said Dr. Petropolis. “We want every resident to have a doctor they can see in their home.”
Achieving that has taken the better part of a year as Dr. Petropolis and Belinda Chen, the project manager of the Fraser Northwest division of Family Practice Physicians, consulted with the leadership teams at every residential care facility in New West and the Tri-Cities. They listened to the challenges the teams had providing consistent care for their residents, then a working group of physicians developed a model to address those challenges.
“We wanted 100 per cent buy-in,” said Dr. Petropolis. “Everybody in the community should have the same level of care.”
So far the care team consists of six doctors. More are being sought. Each doctor sets aside time in their schedule to make regular visits to the various homes as well as be on-call after hours.
When the doctors are at the homes, they’re able to visit with residents, get to know them, consult with their regular caregivers, confer with families and review medication protocols. The additional care complements the care residents receive from their own family doctors, said Dr Petropolis.
“They’re proactive visits, when there’s not a crisis.”
That additional connection can be critical to a seniors’ quality of life, said Dr. Petropolis.
“It’s a security blanket that somebody is there for them,” said Dr. Petropolis. “When you’re a senior, you want to have seamless comfort and care.”
It’s also important for families.
“When a family member is moved into a care home, they’re really unsettled,” said Dr. Petropolis. “So to have a physician be be a constant presence gives them reassurance.”
The doctors also benefit, as the team shares their knowledge and experiences caring for the senior residents, while being minimally disruptive to their regular practice.
“It allows us to design the program in a way that it works into our workflow,” said Dr. Petropolis. “Doctors need to think of what the patient deserves.”