Providing a health-care alternative

Darrell Cole
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Home First pilot project seeing success

Shannon Andersen, manager of rehab services with the Colchester-East Hants Health Authority, rehab assistant Shelly Morash and occupational therapist Mandi Fanning speak to occupational therapist-physiotherapist assistant students Pamela Crowell and Scott Wallace about the Home First pilot project underway in the Truro area. They spoke at an OT-PT assistants conference at the NSCC Amherst Learning Centre on Saturday. 

AMHERST – A new pilot project among district health authorities in the province is striving to help seniors make the transition from the hospital back to their homes.

Speaking to occupational and physiotherapy assistant students at the NSCC Amherst Learning Centre on Saturday, Shannon Andersen of the Colchester-East Hants Health Authority said the Home First program has been a huge success in that it brings intensive health-care services into the home and frees up acute-care beds in the hospital.

“It has gone as we would expect. We encountered some wrinkles at first but we expected that with entering into something new. As a pilot project it has been going very well and the outcomes are very affirming to what we expected to see,” said Andersen the manager of rehab services for the Colchester-East Hants Health Authority.

Andersen said community-based rehabilitation services have been used in Nova Scotia since 2008 with great success. It used to be the case that people had to go to a health-care facility to receive services such as occupational therapy or physiotherapy.

The pilot project, she said, is the next step in providing rehab services in the community, this time with seniors who would normally wait in hospital until a long-term care bed became available.

Home First is already established in other provinces, such as Ontario, and is in the early stages in Nova Scotia. Through the program, a client is identified while in the hospital. As assessment is completed within 48 hours of discharge from the hospital and a care schedule is established.

“It’s a person-centered approach that focuses on keeping high needs seniors safely in their homes,” occupational therapist Mandi Fanning said. “It’s the most cost-effective way to care for these seniors and it supports their quality of life because that’s where senior want to be. They want to be in their own homes, not a hospital or a long-term care facility.”

Fanning said that even thought the project is only several months ago, the response from clients has already been phenomenal.

The Home First program will see health-care professionals go into the home for up to 60 days to help the client make the transition to living in their homes while receiving treatment. Fanning said it’s an intensive care program that matches service to the client’s needs.

Once the 60-day period is finished, a case by case evaluation is completed that could see the client’s needs care for by other community-based supports.

 “That level of intensive care is not sustainable from a human resource perspective. It will bottleneck eventually if everyone was being seen at that level,” she said. “The goal is to get someone stable and then see what supports and resources are available to keep this person home safely and functional.”

Andersen said Home First is a viable alternative to alternate level care and long-term care beds.

“The focus is keeping people in their home environment because that’s where people want to be. That’s what this program is targeting,” Andersen said. “It’s not suggesting long-term care is a bad place, it’s suggesting let’s keep people home as long as we can and then when the transition is required there’s space for them.”

Twitter: @ADNdarrell


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