AGC and Partners Launch Virtual Home Visits

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During the pandemic, social isolation, functional decline and caregiver burnout are concerns facing the older adult population during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Algoma Geriatric Clinic (AGC) is still providing follow up care to patients and is open to new referrals.

The Clinic provides specialized geriatric care with goals of increasing functional ability, independence and quality of life for seniors and their care partners. The AGC continues to provide care to patients during this unprecedented time through virtual means and via telephone. “While geriatric services in the community may look different, many organizations are still working to ensure older adults are supported in the community,” says Dr. Katriina Hopper, Geriatrician, Algoma Geriatric Clinic. In fact, organizations are collaborating more than they ever had before, harnessing the power of technology to ensure older adults continue to receive services and have the opportunity to socialize. “I believe the other side of this pandemic will result in a more cohesive and supportive health care environment for our older adult population, with more options for contact between patients and their health care providers.”

The Algoma Geriatric Clinic in partnership with the North East Specialized Geriatric Centre (NESGC) has connected with community partners such as the NE LHIN, Red Cross, Group Health Centre and March of Dimes to help facilitate virtual visits. “A virtual “home visit” may allow a person with frailty to see their doctor without leaving their home, and allow the doctor to view how their patient is functioning in their environment. It could be safer for the patient, and provide more information for the physician to allow them to create a better plan of care,” explains Dr. Hopper. The Clinic has begun videoconferencing between patients and providers in the Algoma Geriatric Clinic to conduct assessments. “We piloted videoconferencing with a group of patients who already have technology in the homes,” says Dr. Hopper. “Our team is also working with our community partners to improve the reach of technology into the homes of patients who may not have the appropriate technology to ensure access to Geriatrician consultations.”

In addition to offering virtual services, the Clinic re-organized services such as the Frail to Fit exercise classes. These classes have been temporarily suspended and converted to online live education about falls prevention, providing opportunities for socialization and education. Isolation is a real concern when it comes to seniors’ health. “We know that loneliness is linked to serious health problems and social connection helps improve outcomes for older adults living with frailty and dementia,” says Dr. Hopper. With that in mind, the Algoma Geriatric Clinic and Seniors Mental Health have collaborated with volunteers from SAH to create the “Algoma Senior Telephone Outreach Program”. Socially-isolated seniors in their programs are matched with a volunteer, who will call them to provide a friendly telephone chat and a social connection. For seniors who have access to and are comfortable using the internet, social media and videoconferencing with family and friends can be helpful.

The AGC accepts referrals from primary care and specialist physicians. Patients can also self-refer to Senior’s Mental Health/Behaviour Supports Ontario. Geriatric Emergency Management registered nurses are also still working in the Emergency Department.

Please do not delay seeking care if you feel ill or have worsening of your chronic disease. If you are a patient or caregiver working with the Algoma Geriatric Clinic or Seniors Mental Health, and are having worsening symptoms or behaviors, please call the Algoma Geriatric Clinic at 705-759-3434 ext. 6970 or Senior’s Mental Health at 705-759-3434 ext. 6960.

Resources for Seniors:

  • For seniors who do not have internet, “A Friendly Voice” phone line for seniors in Ontario is staffed 7 days per week from 8 am to 12 am (1-855-892-9992)
  • For caregivers of older adults with frailty or dementia, visit www.ontariocaregiver.ca
    24/7 telephone helpline 1-833-416-2273 (CARE) and a live chat on the website
  • For older adults and caregivers living with dementia, visit www.alzheimer.ca
  • “The Wrinkle”, https://www.thewrinkle.ca/ – an informational blog and You Tube series produced by an Ontario Geriatrician

To find out more about SAH, visit: www.sah.on.ca