Home care program helps Vancouver elders live, and die, with dignity

2022-12-02 12:00 AM
Vancouver Mental health & wellness; Recognition

A group of passionate allied health professionals has made it their calling to support Vancouver seniors wanting to stay in their home for as long as possible.

Home-ViVE (Home Visits to Vancouver's Elders) is a Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) initiative that, since 2008, has been providing primary care, nursing and rehabilitation services to frail homebound elders.

Dr. Conrad Rusnak, Home-ViVE Physician Coordinator and Vancouver Family Physician, says what he enjoys most about the work is building longitudinal relationships with patients.

“We're very fortunate to be able to help our patients manage their health challenges so they can live independently, and getting to know them better over time is an added bonus," says Dr. Rusnak.

A close second, he says, is the opportunity to work amongst a multidisciplinary team of dedicated and like-minded individuals. “We're all in this together, and it's been really gratifying to support each other as we support our patients' health and well-being."

Home-ViVE clients are assigned a Family Physician (FP) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) who deliver primary care services, with additional support provided by Registered Nurses (RN), Physical Therapists (PT), Occupational Therapists (OT) and Rehabilitation Assistants (RA). There are also those in administrative roles who support the overall team.

The Home-ViVE team also coordinates closely with Community Health Centres across Vancouver which, as Dr. Rusnak explains, is crucial to the program's ability to provide care.

“We really rely on our partnerships with the various health units around the city," says Dr. Rusnak. “Their support is invaluable, and we simply would not be able to serve our clients effectively without it."

In addition to helping patients live independently, Home-ViVE team members provide end-of-life care for those wishing to die in the comfort of their home. Elizabeth Leonardis, a NP with the program, reflects on the impact of their work not only on patients, but on their families as well.

“There's a real intimacy that's created when we're caring for patients in their own space, and particularly when their families are present," says Elizabeth. “They place a huge amount of trust in us to care for their loved ones, whether in life or approaching death, and we don't take that lightly."

Both Elizabeth and Dr. Rusnak recognize the stressful nature of their jobs, and the importance of taking care of oneself first, to then be able to take care of their patients.

“We deal with a lot of uncertainty and are sometimes faced with hard decisions, and that can take a mental or emotional toll," says Dr. Rusnak. “I personally find comfort in hearing about challenges that my colleagues are experiencing, as I often experience similar challenges myself."

Elizabeth echoes his sentiments, and says she is grateful to have a support structure in place to help her deal with stressful thoughts or feelings. “I feel very fortunate to have friends and colleagues who I can be honest and vulnerable with, and who I can go to when things get a little stressful, and vice versa," says Elizabeth.

She also says what makes the Home-ViVE team so great is that everyone is on the same level, regardless of position or title, and contributes however they can to ensure a positive patient experience. ​​