Expanding access to care for older adults in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic

Expanding access to care for older adults in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic

As we continue to deal with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many older adults in the community are finding it difficult to navigate the current healthcare environment. Some have even found themselves weighing the benefits of receiving a flu shot as opposed to isolating in their homes to reduce exposure to the virus. For others, mobility issues and the lack of safe and reliable transportation have become obstacles for obtaining a flu shot.

Anastasia*, a resident of the Senior Housing units located at 4455 Bathurst St. explains how she thought that for the first time in years, she would be forced to go without a flu shot: “I hear on the radio that the government is saying this is the most important year to get it because of the pandemic, but I was too scared to go to my doctor’s or the pharmacy in case I got COVID-19 from just going there.”

Flu shot 3The North Toronto Ontario Health Team (NTOHT), in partnership with Baycrest, recognized the immediate need to provide flu shots to older adults in the community. “North Toronto has the fastest growing and one of the largest populations of older adults, aged 65 and older, living alone in Toronto.  When you add on the additional layer of further isolation, anxiety and fear of contracting the highly contagious COVID-19 virus, the urgency of developing different ways of delivering healthcare needs to the most frail seniors in our community magnifies quickly,” Susan Chang, Manager of Strategic Projects & Initiatives at VHA Home HealthCare – a partner of the NTOHT – explained. Thus, the NTOHT quickly collaborated to organize a wide-scale pilot that would deliver flu shots to older adults in Senior Housing units across North Toronto.

In just over two months, Adrian Vecchio, Advanced Practice Nurse at Baycrest, and Tracy Zhang, Pharmacist at Baycrest, joined forces with NTOHT partners to lead and mobilize a collaborative effort to help 700 older adults receive the flu shot at their residence. For Anastasia, the news that she would not have to forfeit her flu shot due to the pandemic filled her with a sense of relief. “Knowing that I don’t have to leave my apartment, and having nurses come to us with their gowns, masks and face shields, I was so happy I could get my flu shot and stay safe too,” she added.

Flu Shot 3Jagger Smith, Program Director of Ambulatory Transformation, at Baycrest explains that this initiative is just one example of how interdisciplinary teams are expanding access to care for older adults and enabling them to age safely in their setting of choice. “In addition to giving the flu shots, NTOHT members have assigned health professionals to specific Seniors Housing Unit buildings. Through a sustained relationship with seniors in their building, these health professionals encourage and facilitate connection with family doctors. This distributed team of nurses, pharmacists, social workers, occupational therapists and case managers can help address a wide variety of health needs for residents, which helps to reduce strain on healthcare institutions,” Smith explained.

Baycrest is a proud partner of the North Toronto Ontario Health Team, and is committed to providing excellence in care both on our campus and in the community. The hard work and dedication from our staff and community partners continues to drive novel, collaborative approaches that help our older adult population stay healthy and safe wherever they choose to live. To learn more about the North Toronto Ontario Health Team, visit http://northtorontooht.ca/

*A pseudonym has been used to protect the privacy of our client.

About Baycrest

Baycrest is a global leader in aging and brain health with a vision of a world where, with your help, we can all Fear No AgeTM.

Baycrest is an academic health sciences centre fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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