Windsor, ON: Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) recognizes the important role of families as partners for safety and quality and acknowledges that connections with family members are integral to the health, well-being and healing of loved ones. Over a year into the COVID-19 Pandemic, HDGH is celebrating the success of a program launched in June of 2020, which aimed at enabling educated Designated Care Partners (DCP) to provide specific aspects of the care plan as defined by the patient and care team in a carefully planned and coordinated approach during a time of COVID restrictions.
In March of 2020 at the start of the pandemic, HDGH, like many hospitals across the province faced the difficult decision to close the doors to visitors, leaving patients and families separated. Janice Kaffer, President and CEO, along with the staff and physicians struggled with this decision. “I remember when we made the decision, we had our Patient and Family Advisory Council involved and it was a difficult decision for all of us. I then found myself on the units rounding and our staff, too, were struggling with closing our doors. We knew following Sars in 2003, that we needed to be concerned about the emotional harm this was going to cause our patients. We knew we had to find a solution,” explained Janice.
Thus, the Designated Care Partner program. One of the first of its kind in Ontario, this program was co-designed with the HDGH Patient and Family Advisory Council to ensure the patient voice was represented in program development.
After a year of implementing the DCP program, which ensured that family or care partners could come into the hospital and do it safely during the pandemic has seen over 852 individuals as part of its training program. Joanne Laforet, a past DCP credits the hospital for implementing this program. “I am certain had my loved one not been allowed a DCP she may have never been motivated enough to come home,” explained Laforce.
The hour and a half orientation session provided by the hospital outlines safety guidelines, Infection Control and Prevention training and an opportunity to learn from trained staff to better assist their loved ones. Surveys from a group of DCPs show that 97% of DCPs felt confident and prepared as a DCP after participating in the training. Further, 98% felt they had gained the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill their role as a care partner.
Kaffer is thrilled at how this program has grown. “Since October 2020, DCP’s have dedicated over 20,000 hours at HDGH with their loved ones. The emotional impact this program has had on our patients can not be understated.”
In addition to launching the DCP program, HDGH has been assisting partners across Ontario with the development of their own care partner program. The hospital has presented numerous webinars and learning sessions for organizations such as Healthcare Excellence Canada, the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care and the Ontario Caregiver Organization. Along with this, the hospital has been a resource for organizations such as Bruyere, Bluewater Health and Grey Bruce County Long Term Care.
“The supports and partnership we received from HDGH were the foundation of our DCP program in Grey County. They helped us integrate essential caregivers so they can partner to support our residents in Long Term Care. We currently have over 325 active DCPs whom we consider part of our care team, and who play an essential role to the physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing of our residents,” Jennifer Cornell, Director of Long Term Care, County of Grey explained.
As COVID numbers in Windsor Essex continue to decline the hospital has opened up for registered visitors. However, the momentum built on the DCP program will continue to grow as HDGH, alongside the DCP Advisory Council, continue to look at a post-COVID model to strengthen the role of DCP as a care partner, especially for patients with more long term, complex care needs.