LINC: Supporting seniors
by Lilianne Fuller
Taking its cue from the old adage that “it takes a village to raise a child,” Seniors LINC have created the Seniors LINC Interprofessional Team. This team provides wrap-around care and is designed to help people to remain independent for as long as possible.
In 2015, the Ministry of Health chose Langley and eleven other communities in British Columbia to redesign seniors’ care that would be closer to home, community-based, and rooted in the patient’s needs. Each community went about the task using different initiatives. Langley chose an integrated care approach and LINC was the result. LINC stands for the Langley Integrated Network of Care and is made up of Langley organizations that work together to serve seniors.
Sylvia Gibb learned first-hand how beneficial LINC can be for seniors. When her husband Bill needed residential care, the couple were separated. They had been married for a short eight years and being apart was hard on them. More so, because of her own health and mobility issues, Sylvia was unable to visit her husband.
Trained as a nurse in the 1960’s, Sylvia worked at various hospitals in the Lower Mainland and during her time at St. Paul’s hospital she worked in the male urology unit. This experience enabled her to care for Bill when he developed bladder cancer early in their marriage. Sylvia feels that being able to remain at home is the best course of action in most cases. “If you can stay at home; if you can be together, it’s the best way,” she said. But having been a nurse, she understands that this is not always the case.
Early in 2017, Bill developed bone cancer and could no longer remain at home. Sylvia wasn’t able to visit her husband and understandably, this very upsetting. Then in August 2017, she was referred to the Seniors LINC Interprofessional Team and was given a combined comprehensive geriatric assessment by Nurse Practitioner Lori Bates, a Licensed Practical Nurse, and Physiotherapist Jenny Palmer.
Sylvia explained that since April she hadn’t been able to leave her home to visit Bill and she was feeling hopeless. Bill’s 80th birthday was coming up in December and her goal was to visit him for this momentous occasion.
Over the next three months, Jenny and Sylvia worked together to achieve this goal. They started with a strengthening home exercise program and scheduled follow up visits to assess her progress and give her encouragement.
By mid October, Sylvia was able to go outside and with supervision and encouragement, she went up and down her steps. By mid-November, again under supervision, she walked outside using her walker. She had successfully used the stairs and walked outside for the first time in seven months! Her neighbours came out to cheer her on and she was so excited and proud of her accomplishment.
On December 3, Sylvia met her goal and visited her husband to celebrate his birthday. She very much appreciates the help she received. “With Lori and Jenny, and their encouragement and support, I was able to reach my goal to visit my husband. I want to say ‘thank you’ for all they have done for me,” she says.
The Interprofessional Team is one of the ways that Seniors LINC supports seniors. This team is designed to connect a senior with access to a geriatric expert. These experts include a Dietitian, Occupational Therapist, Social Worker, Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Pharmacist, Nurse, Spiritual Health Practitioner and in Sylvia’s case, a Physiotherapist.
A primary goal of Seniors LINC is to help seniors stay well at home, avoid the emergency wards and unnecessary trips to the hospital. Seniors can be supported to self-manage their chronic conditions. Educational programs are available to help Individuals learn how to recognize trouble when it starts and are given information on how to stay active. These programs, coupled with the wrap-around care offerings determined by the Interprofessional team are helping to make the above goal a reality.
Though Seniors LINC is a Langley initiative, other communities have similar resources as well. Throughout the province in various communities, all individuals have a way to discover what their communities have to offer. FETCH (For Everything That’s Community Health) is an online resource for information on social and health resources within other local communities. The link to FETCH can be found online at: www.divisionsbc.ca/provincial/fetch or Google FETCH BC for a location near you.
More communities in British Columbia are in the process of developing a community-based model. While Langley is unique, others are going forward with their own interdisciplinary teams. Shannon Ediger, Project Leader Langley Health Services advises the best place for people to find similar resources in their communities is the local Home Health office or the Social worker at their hospital.