Council steps up to fund paramedic project to support vulnerable seniors

By Roderick Benns

Paramedics noted they wanted to leverage their skills and resources to support vulnerable, isolated seniors.

Vulnerable seniors in Kawartha Lakes may get the help they need after Kawartha Lakes City Council endorsed the idea of a three-month pilot run by local paramedics.

Mayor Andy Letham brought forward the proposed project idea by Kawartha Lakes Paramedic Service today after the Local Health Integration twice turned the paramedics down for $25,000 to fund the pilot.

The Lindsay Advocate originally broke the story about scores of people across the City who are over age 60 and are struggling due to a lack of some cognitive abilities. There isn’t any program or service in Kawartha Lakes set up to help them. In some cases family members have tried to help but have failed, due to the ongoing effort that is required with people who have dementia or some kind of cognitive challenge.

In other cases the person is estranged from family or simply has no relatives to draw support from. In all cases, these are not seniors who are seeking help.

A working group for gaps in senior services was created, spearheaded by Women’s Resources and Ross Memorial Hospital, but also involving Community Care, Kawartha Lakes Police Services, OPP, A Place Called Home, Elder Abuse, and a local capacity assessor.

A recent community meeting was held to seek input, which Letham attended.

Paramedics have been concerned about the numbers of vulnerable seniors who wind up calling 911 shortly after being sent home and being delivered back to hospital by paramedics for re-admission to hospital. They saw a gap in services, considering it takes a while for whatever supports might be available to kick in — and those supports aren’t always available.

In their presentation to council, paramedics noted they wanted to leverage their skills and resources to support vulnerable, isolated seniors when they were sent home.

For the pilot, which has now been approved, particularly vulnerable patients would be identified by Ross Memorial Hospital staff members, such as a geriatric nurse, the manager of emergency services and one other staff member.

A paramedic would go to the home daily for approximately an hour. Altogether the paramedic would see five to six seniors in a day. Seniors in the program would see the same paramedic each time, so as to get used to a familiar face. Such visits would include, among other things, health checks, help with medications, and checking in on their physical environment.

Ultimately, the goal would be to reduce patient readmission requiring a bed over the three month period.

The paramedics estimated that the $25,000 grant could generate a $64,000 return on investment, factoring in that the daily cost for a hospital patient is roughly $500.

Council, while pointing out that the province should be funding this, agreed that it was important. The mayor and a number of councillors spoke out very strongly in favour of supporting the pilot project.

Councillor Emmett Yeo even wondered about extending funding for a full year; however, the motion passed was to fund it as a three-month pilot project.

As much data as possible will be collected and then at the end of the three months there will be a report back to council to make a decision on next steps. This could include encouraging the Province to take it over or for the City to continue its funding.

More than a third of the City of Kawartha Lakes’ population is 60 or over, according to 2016 Statistics Canada numbers.

–with files from Jamie Morris.

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