November is Fall Prevention Month and an opportune time to increase awareness of the significant impact that falls have on older adults, the factors that contribute to the risk of falling, and the ways falls can be prevented.
Falling remains the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths among Canadians 65 years and older. Simcoe Muskoka is consistent with this, and the rates of fall-related emergency visits and deaths are significantly higher when compared to Ontario. Between 2014 and 2018, approximately 125 Simcoe Muskoka residents died annually from a fall, and more than 90 percent of those that died were aged 65 years and older.
To read Dr. Simon's full article please visit the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit website.
Each year, the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario hosts its annual convention. It is here that a select number of lucky winners, are chosen from a group of AFHTO membership nominees, for recognition with a Bright Lights Award. Award submissions are focused on leadership, outstanding work and significant progress that has been made to improve the value of primary care teams across Ontario.
Congratulations to the Algonquin and Cottage Country Family Health Teams for being selected as a Bright Lights Awards nominee! Their submission, development of the Muskoka Geriatric Team, was chosen in the category - Optimizing teams’ capacity and creating efficiencies. In addition to the two family health teams, the Muskoka Geriatric Team is supported by physicians as well as North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized Geriatric Services.
The Muskoka Geriatric Team was developed to optimize the health, independence and quality of life for at-risk older adults, as well as increase the capacity for geriatric care in the two Muskoka family health teams. The geriatric team is based on an idea generated from both family health teams' boards of directors. The purpose is to promote equity to care and address the growing need for access to specialized geriatric services in an area where few specialist physicians exist.
In addition, NSM SGS would like to acknowledge the other North Simcoe Muskoka submissions also chosen as Bright Lights Awards' nominees:
Congratulations to everyone! Hopefully we’ll see a winner or winners for North Simcoe Muskoka!
Fall has arrived - for some too early, some just in time. For others it signals the continuance of an adventure that began early in June.
Throughout June, and continuing over the summer, 16 of the 26 North Simcoe Muskoka long-term care homes agreed to participate in our older adult technology boost by accepting SGS’s offer of different types of social technology for their homes. Depending on technology available, homes would choose options that might work for their residents. In addition to receiving the equipment, some homes hosted information sessions for residents and staff, which were delivered by our two enthusiastic summer students, Nicholas and Jordan, along with NSM SGS Recreation Therapist Jenna. One of the primary objectives of the project was to observe how technology cannot only improve quality of life for older adults, but also improve the way we deliver our care. Apple and Samsung watches, wireless Bluetooth speakers, iPod shuffles, Meta Quest 2 (virtual reality headsets), Google Nests and Amazon Alexas were some of the products demonstrated.
It was an especially rewarding experience watching older adults interact with technologies such as virtual reality, which they can use for enjoyment and not just health benefits. Recreation teams that participated through our community and long-term care home presentations were encouraged by the many possibilities of how technology could be used to benefit older adults living not only in long-term care, but also in their own homes.
The results on how each home has adopted the technology will be part of a follow up survey that will take place in October. In the meantime, we can say based on our presentations and visits to the homes that, while the digital gap is still large, it is evident that many individuals are more than willing to learn about the different types of social technology and with training, will be able to benefit from them.
Every June is Seniors' Month in Ontario and every year there is a different theme for organizations to use when planning seniors events or communications. This year's theme is "Working with Seniors" - so here at North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized Geriatric Services (NSM SGS) we decided to focus on how current technology might help improve or maintain the care and well-being of older adults.
On June 13th NSM SGS and IOOF Barrie held an interactive session for older adults focused on some of the current technology options. From virtual reality to Google Hubs and Amazon Alexas, the participants were able to access information and entertainment quickly and easily.
Gloria, an IOOF resident, was thrilled to participate in the demonstration and was particularly fascinated with the virtual reality headset. She experienced a trip to outer space and commented that she ‘was above the stars’ and ‘literally out of this world”. She also thought it was amazing that a 95 year old could visit the International Space Station!
According to summer student Nic, his a-ha! moment was hearing Gloria speak about the Google Hubs and Amazon Alexas that were being demonstrated.
“We talk a lot about the potential impacts of these devices and how we think people will use them, but when Gloria sat in front of the two devices and said - “I need one of these in my room”- I was very curious as to why. She said her room doesn’t have a TV and she has no way of communicating with her family, apart from a landline. She said a device like Google Hub or Amazon Alexa would work perfectly because she could watch TV or communicate with her family by using one device for everything.
She also said that she makes notes of things she needs to do or medications she needs to take, but to have a voice reminding you to do these things, would make it a whole lot easier. I never considered these devices for use as an all in one communications / entertainment / personal assistant, but I suppose they are actually the perfect device to fill all those needs.”
Wearable technology, that can keep older adults safe, was also on display.
To watch the Barrie CTV video from the June 13th event: https://barrie.ctvnews.ca/seniors-in-long-term-care-home-escape-reality-with-immersive-program-1.6439840
To listen to Nic and Recreational Therapist Jenna Davis speak with CBC Ontario Morning host Ramraajh Sharvendiran about the June 13th event: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-112-ontario-morning-from-cbc-radio/clip/15992214-seniors-begin-taking-virtual-reality.
As part of our Ontario Seniors’ Month initiative, North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized Geriatric Services (NSM SGS) has begun to distribute different types of technology to our NSM long-term care homes, supporting the implementation through the help of our two talented summer students.
Read on to meet our students - Nic and Jordan - who talk about experiences they’ve had or knowledge they’ve acquired, that make them the perfect complement to our technology roll-out.
“My name is Nic and I’m a third year Business student at Wilfrid Laurier University. I feel like I am a great fit for this position due to my previous experiences and current passions. I have always found technology to be incredibly interesting. Growing up in a household that was passionate about the care of older adults, I firmly believed there was an opportunity to marry the two together. I volunteered at a local retirement home running a program called “Cyber Seniors” where I taught a group of older adults how to use their iPads in day-to-day life. I taught everything from how to send emails to helping integrate keyboards for different languages as many of these adults were writing down messages on paper in their native tongue to then take a picture and send it to their friends and family.”
“Hi – my name is Jordan and I’m in my final year of postgraduate studies in public health and occupational safety at Toronto Metropolitan University. I have worked with older adults for the past few years. Through my experience working in a retirement home, as well as taking older adults and determinants of health courses throughout my undergrad, has given me a strong understanding of the prevalence of social isolation in older adults and how digital literacy can possibly help to bridge this disconnect gap. I look forward to seeing how technology will build or enhance a sense of community in the lives of older adults!”
Nic and Jordan, along with SGS staff, will be taking the different technologies to long-term care homes, providing knowledge and advice on how to use the equipment, not only for residents but staff as well, so that going forward, staff will be able to assist residents when they need some help.
On June 13, 2023, we will be hosting a media event at IOOF Barrie, as part of our Seniors’ Month technology roll-out - a way of showcasing how different modes of technology can support, enable and enhance the lives of older adults.
Watch this space.
If technology intimidates you, you’re not alone! But while healthy older adults have proven time and again they can adjust to the ever-evolving tech landscape, those that live in long-term care homes are often not as lucky.
Prior to living in long-term care, many residents were active members of our communities – travelling, visiting museums and other attractions, socially busy. Now we often find that those same older adults are unable to participate in many of these activities and that’s where we see technology becoming a viable option for some.
Through the enhancements that have been made in technology, folks can visit Africa to see elephants, lions and other animals in their natural habitats. Or they might want to hike to Machu Picchu to take in the majesty of the Andes and see how the Incas lived centuries ago. Or watch otters and other creatures interact and cavort at aquariums or zoos. Some may just want to chat with their friends or family on a regular basis.
NSM SGS is looking to help our long-term care home residents experience, again or some for the first time, the magic that technology can make happen. Beginning in June, Ontario Seniors Month, we will be visiting our long-term care homes helping residents that are interested learn how to become comfortable and knowledgeable with the technology that will be donated to their home.
To meet those goals, NSM SGS has hired two summer students who, along with members of our NSM SGS staff and long-term care home staff, will be using their technological savvy to encourage residents to challenge themselves in how to access various sites or applications.
To learn further about work that has already been done in Ontario, please have a read through the article “How Tech Can Help Seniors in Long-Term Care Homes Gain Independence” by Christine Persaud. A great piece about the benefits of various types of technology that can be helpful for long-term care home residents.
And watch this space to see how our Seniors Month June 2023 project rolls out in North Simcoe Muskoka.
The Senior Friendly Care (sfCare) Framework, developed by the Regional Geriatric Program of Toronto, provides the foundation for achieving improvements in care across the health care system, while inspiring greater collaboration between older adults and their caregivers, care providers and organizations.
Senior friendly care is preventive and proactive care that meets the unique needs of older adults. It is NOT an “add-on”, “pilot project”, or “special initiative”. It is essential foundational care implemented by all care providers within an organization and across sectors.
Senior Friendly Care helps healthcare organizations assess where they are on their sfCare journey and provides practical resources for implementing real change.
What does Senior Friendly Care look like in North Simcoe Muskoka?
While the sfCare Framework can be incorporated into any health care organization, at NSM SGS we have focused our work in helping our North Simcoe Muskoka hospitals implement initiatives supporting senior friendly care.
Over the past five years, each NSM hospital has completed the Senior Friendly Care Organizational Self-Assessment several times. Areas of focused work include, but are not limited to, training staff, implementing delirium and functional decline prevention and management programs, ensuring care during COVID focused on senior friendly principles, completing physical environment assessments of the hospital buildings, to name a few.
Watch this space to see how Senior Friendly Care will play a major role when implementing Alternate Level of Care Leading Practices.
This communication provides notice to partners of the following changes within the North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized Geriatric Services (NSM SGS) program effective February 14, 2022.
• A new NSM SGS program Referral Form
• Changes in access to geriatric medicine team services across NSM sub-regions.
The NSM SGS program was established in 2016 to advance the care of frail older adults and caregivers in the NSM region. Since 2016 we have been redesigning our services and building partnerships with area providers. Early redesign work focused on our geriatric mental health team. More recently, we have been redesigning our geriatric medicine team by broadening our original focus on falls (through the Integrated Regional Falls Program – IRFP) to a more comprehensive geriatric medicine focus. As part of the redesign, we received approval from Ontario Health Central Region to sunset our Integrated Regional Falls Program (IRFP). This is an important next step in creating an innovative service that can work with our sub-region Ontario Health Team partners to advance local integrated specialized geriatric medicine services for frail older adults and their caregivers. The redesign plan:
• Is supported by our regional Seniors Health Working Group, a sub-committee of the Central Ontario Health Team for Specialized Populations;
• Aligns with our clinical design hub-and-spoke model and advances the integration of specialized geriatric medicine and geriatric mental health services across the region; and,
• Helps us continue to improve patient outcomes, build system capacity, make better use of specialized resources and, over time, simplify access to specialized geriatric services.
NSM SGS Referral Form: Effective February 14, 2022 we will be using a new referral form for our program and services. We recognize it will take time for partners to transition to the new form. As we receive old forms we will follow-up with referring sources to ensure they are aware a new form is available. A pdf fillable form is attached. It can also be found on the Clinical Services page of our website www.nsmsgs.ca
Geriatric Medicine Services:
• All referrals received in our Central Intake are reviewed and triaged to the most appropriate available specialized geriatric service based on patient needs.
• The NSM SGS program has been working with local partners to better integrate geriatric medicine team services across all sub-regions. This work is at varying stages of progress.
• As of February 14, 2022 the NSM SGS program will sunset IRFP and complete any outstanding referrals on our waitlist over the coming months. During this transition period, access to geriatric medicine team services will vary across NSM sub-regions.
View the memo below to learn more about how to access Geriatric Medicine team services for each area within North Simcoe Muskoka.
Residents of area long-term care homes have endured a long, hard two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over that time, there were lockdowns that prevented them from seeing family and friends and many activities in their homes were modified or even canceled to align with public health measures. These changes have all had a significant impact on our older adults.
“The restrictions in these settings that are meant to keep older adults safe are also resulting in isolation and loneliness,” says Sandra Easson-Bruno, Director, North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized
Geriatrics Services. “As we make our way through this wave, it’s really important that we keep these older adults active and engaged. It’s so important for their physical, mental and emotional health”.
“For those living with dementia, staying socially engaged and being cognitively stimulated are key to overall quality of life,” Laura Lynn Bourassa, Manager of Education and Support Programs with the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County adds.
To support the residents and staff of area long-term care homes, the Alzheimer Society of Muskoka, Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County and North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized Geriatric Services partnered together to develop Grab & Go Activity Kits. These kits, which included things like games, art materials, CD players, activity sheets and more, were delivered to all 31 long-term care homes across the Simcoe County and Muskoka region, including Parry Sound.
“During these restrictive periods we saw persons living with dementia experience greater cognitive decline,” says Bourassa. “These kits aim to provide opportunities for enrichment to ward off the negative effects of isolation.”
At the Bob Rumball Home for the Deaf in Barrie, the kits came at the perfect time.
“Receiving this activity kit was a huge blessing,” says Jessica Dyke, Coordinator of Programs at the home. “When the residents are alone in their rooms you can really see that lack of stimulation makes them decline faster. These activities are great to keep their minds active and encourage staff to participate with them and interact more.”
The Pines in Muskoka extended “a huge thank you for the recent donation. As you know, these are challenging times right now and to have extra resources for our residents will provide many hours of sensory stimulation. The staff and residents were excited to see the markers, fidget items, stuffed animals, stereos etc... Thank you for the great work that you do for our community!”
The North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized Geriatric Services program, Alzheimer Society Muskoka, Alzheimer Society Simcoe County, Prevention of Seniors Abuse Network Simcoe County and Barrie Police want to ensure that older adults and their caregivers remain safe amid continued COVID-19 restrictions.
With the Omicron variant causing COVID-19 cases to rise again in the region and province, restrictions will continue to isolate our older adults and their caregivers. Rising cases, fewer health care providers, renewed restrictions, shorter daylight hours and colder temperatures, can contribute to several key safety concerns for our older adults:
Across the region a variety of resources do exist to support older adults and caregivers reduce risk, like the Alzheimer Society of Ontario’s Finding Your Way program, MedicAlert®Safely Home® program, Project Lifesaver, It’s Not Right resources targeting elder abuse, and both Cyber-Seniors and Telus-Wise which promote cyber safety.
Be a good neighbour. If you know or suspect an older adult and/or caregiver is at risk, reach out to offer a hand. You can also encourage families and friends to access the resources available online. Together, we can ensure we keep our seniors as safe as possible during COVID-19!
For information on caring for seniors, please visit the NSM SGS website’s COVID-19 web page.
Learn more about resources available in the document linked below.