COACH helps bring seniors home

Kirsten Mallard is a COACH program nurse practitioner in Souris

Murray MacPherson knew he and his mother couldn’t care for his father by themselves.

Diagnosed with dementia, 82-year-old Scott MacPherson had been in the hospital for 41 days with a bladder infection and related issues. It was only because of Health PEI’s home-care initiatives including the COACH program that the elder MacPherson could return home to his family. Image of Murray MacPherson

“Dementia and Alzheimer’s are a slow-motion disappearing act by the patient,” Murray MacPherson (pictured) said. “The emotional and mental strain on my father and our family has been extensive, as it is with any family in a similar situation.”

COACH (Caring for Older Adults in Community and at Home) program staff provided five-day-a-week care and assistance that the family could not, allowing Scott to have an extra year in his home of 35 years. He now resides at Riverview Manor in Montague.

“My family would not have gotten the time it did with my father at home if not for these programs and their caring and supportive staff,” MacPherson said.

“Their experience, knowledge and compassion make them experts at the large challenges – but it is truly their skill, empathy and kindness with the small things that makes them exceptional. We are thankful beyond measure for them.”

First launched in 2015 in Montague, COACH was developed in partnership with Health PEI’s home care, primary care, and geriatric programs to support frail seniors living in community. The specialized program is also in Souris, Summerside, and O’Leary and supports more than 60 Island seniors.

This past May, a nurse practitioner was hired to help further expand COACH to Queens County thanks to a $140,000 investment in the provincial government’s balanced 2018-19 operating budget. Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell said the program is a major pillar of government’s new action plan for seniors, near seniors, and caregivers called Promoting Wellness, Preserving Health.

“By expanding the COACH program,” Minister Mitchell said, “we are helping to improve access to care for frail seniors with complex needs and support Islanders who wish to remain in their communities.”

In fact, the program  received the Frailty Innovation of the Year award from the Canadian Frailty Network at its national conference this month.

COACH program geriatric nurse practitioner Kirsten Mallard said the program empowers people to be in control of their own lives with the ability to make decisions.

“It matters because they’re in their own home, they’re sleeping in their own beds, and they’re surrounded by the people that they love,” said Mallard, who is based in Souris. “It’s an honour for me to provide that level of care in somebody’s home. I’m constantly putting myself in their shoes every day.

“I do have the best job in the world. I know that.”

Learn more about the COACH Program - which provides frail Island seniors with in-home support for their complex health needs.

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