Program cuts time, money in long-term care

A resident who recently moved into Almonte Country Haven arrived with a serious ulcer, one that threatened to deteriorate and cause major mobility, pain and medical complications.

Thanks to quick, efficient service by the physiotherapist, the resident was fitted with a custom wheelchair with devices that allowed him to be mobile enough that the ulcer was able to heal.

That’s the kind of example registered physiotherapist Gary Rahan gives when he talks about the service physiotherapists in long-term care settings can provide.

“That’s one example; there are hundreds,” he says.

The assistive devices program covers seniors in long-term care for wheelchairs, walkers, backrests and custom cushions, and it licenses occupational and physiotherapists to provide the service.

The process starts when the nursing staff identifies a need. Then the physiotherapist calls together the resident or the power of attorney, and a vendor chosen by the resident. A 30- to 60-minute assessment for needs and fitting is done, and the vendor fills the order.

The next step is for crucial usage information to be assessed. As the resident uses the device, minor adjustments are made on site, or the vendor does reassessment. Only once the device is suited perfectly to the resident is funding approval sought from the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care.

Approval can take between four and 12 weeks, and 75 per cent of the device is covered by the government. The rest falls to private insurance for the few residents who have it, or to the resident’s own pocket. With costs for a wheelchair at up to $5,500, the payment can be significant, and often limiting.

“At least that is the only cost the resident might incur,” Rahan says, adding it is important to remember that seniors are often struggling financially.

In the past, when Community Care Access Centres provided the service for the assistive devices program, Rahan says many residents suffered long wait times and opted for an assessment by a private physiotherapist, at an additional cost of up to $400.

Again, the cost can be limiting for many residents, and the alternative — waiting — can be physically painful and ultimately medically threatening.

“An ulcer can develop within days. By the time the seating options are ready, the ulcer could have become much worse,” Rahan says.

“The way the system is now, residents are not waiting that long,” Rahan says.

“This is our way of giving back to the residents, adding this value to our service,” he adds.

The resident at Almonte Country Haven, like many, arrived with no wheelchair or walker following a hospital stay.  Within the first week, the resident had a loaner chair.

“We prevented a lot of grief for that resident,” Rahan says.

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