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Seniors enjoy comforts of home longer

August 29, 2016

Ernie G., left, Renuika Singh and Clem Loy enjoy each other’s company at the CHOICE program at CapitalCare Dickinsfield.

CHOICE Program marks 20 years of teamwork for AHS, CapitalCare

Story by Bernadette DeSantis; photo courtesy Courtney Banman

EDMONTON — A little CHOICE goes a long way in keeping local seniors healthy and happier in their own homes as they age.

The Comprehensive Home Option of Integrated Care for the Elderly (CHOICE) Program — established 20 years ago by Alberta Health Services (AHS) in partnership with CapitalCare and the Good Samaritan Society — currently helps 382 seniors get the care they need while they enjoy the comforts of home.

“The changes we saw in our Mom because of the program were incredible,” says the family of Lillian Marko, who recently passed away at the age of 88. “Most importantly, Mom was able to live at home with Dad.”

CHOICE Programs combine personalized supports at home — such as medication administration, bathing and meal assistance — with medical, psychological and social support at day centres staffed by doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social workers as well as occupational, physical and recreation/activity therapists.

Clients visit CHOICE centres twice a week, on average. There are five CHOICE centres in Edmonton, including one that focuses on mental health, and another with a specialized dementia program.

“Our Mom would return home from CHOICE and her face would light up as she told us about her time having coffee with the ladies or the singers she listened to,” says Marko’s family.

“Dad could enjoy some time for himself to get his own things done. The support, he felt, reduced his stress immensely.”

A study by the University of Alberta in 2015 revealed that the average age of CHOICE clients is 80 and that 56 per cent are women. All clients have multiple chronic conditions and take on average 12 medications daily (the range is from two to 24).

Upon admission to the CHOICE program, clients were found to be high users of the health system. But the study also found that visits to the emergency room, hospital admissions and falls decreased significantly in the year following enrollment in the program.

“CHOICE is effective at preserving the health of frail seniors, keeping them out of hospital, and avoiding or delaying their admission to long-term care,” says Trish McGrath, manager for CapitalCare’s CHOICE Programs.

Dr. Bryn Whittaker, who retired from CHOICE Dickinsfield a few years ago, says he would like to see the program expanded. A west-end location could accommodate another 100 people, and the ripple effects could ease pressure on acute and continuing care systems.

“Expansion of this model would be, in my opinion, the single most important thing health care could do to improve the lives of frail seniors,” says Whittaker.

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