Priority Home program helps nurses improve patients' quality of life

Melinda Homola
Priority Home case co-ordinator Melinda Homola

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, May 7, 2018

It's only been a few months since the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Priority Home program debuted, but it's already making a difference in its clients' lives and in the lives of the nurses it employs.

"Personally, it's been quite rewarding," says Priority Home case co-ordinator Melinda Homola, one of five nurses currently working in the program. "I'm learning new things every day, and I've had the opportunity to work with a really great team that shares the same goal: to improve our patients' quality of life while maintaining them at home."

Priority Home, which got its start in November, is a person-centred, collaborative philosophy focused on keeping patients - specifically high-needs seniors - safe in their homes for as long as possible using community supports.  It's officially described as a short-term (up to 90 days), transitional, intensive, and restorative service available to eligible individuals who may need: 

  • intensive case co-ordination
  • health-care aide or home-support worker assistance
  • rehabilitation services (occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech language pathology and rehabilitation assistants)
  • other home care supports

"What often happens is that, while in hospital, a patient may become what we call deconditioned: less mobile, weaker, or not up to the functional ability they had prior to their hospital admission.  Our goal is to try to help them regain some of that strength, mobility and function so that they can recover at home rather than having to stay in the hospital or enter a long-term care facility," Homola says. "As case co-ordinators, we collaborate with the occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech pathologist on our team, and with the patients and their families, to identify goals that may allow the patient to become more independent and have a more successful transition back into the community. When we accomplish that, it's very rewarding."

Many patients not only prefer their home environment, but often maintain better health in it.

"There is evidence from other programs within Canada to support that clients tend to do better at home, especially when supported by additional resources such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists," Homola says. "They have the benefit of familiar surroundings and the comforts of home, some of which such as food may be particular to their culture."

Homola says that helping her clients stay in their home environment speaks to the reason she entered the nursing profession nine years ago.

"I went into nursing to help people and in this role I get to work quite closely with my patients to build a good rapport. I'm helping to see them through a difficult time in their lives and, at the same time, I get to use my nursing knowledge to help identify any medical problems that may develop. It's a very challenging role. I develop complex care plans for my patients that help  them with their often challenging medical conditions."

Even in those cases where safety concerns make staying at home impractical for patients, Priority Home's case co-ordinators are able to provide valuable assistance.

"Ultimately, the goal is to help sustain the individual at home," Homola says. "If we are able to do that and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions or trips to the emergency room, that's a success in itself.  But the goal can change if we, the patient or their family recognizes that being at home may not be the most appropriate approach. Then we can talk about placement into assisted living, supportive housing, or help them through the process for long-term care. Helping clients and family members navigate through those various options relieves their stress, and they are very appreciative of that."

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority acknowledges that it provides health services in facilities located in Treaty One and Treaty Five territories, the homelands of the Métis Nation and the original lands of the Inuit people. The WRHA respects and acknowledges harms and mistakes, and we dedicate ourselves to collaborate in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in the spirit of reconciliation.
Click here to read more about the WRHA's efforts towards reconciliation

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