Northern Health is redesigning how it delivers its services to seniors in Prince George with the aim of becoming more efficient.
The organization developed an overall framework earlier this year and is now looking at ways to make specific changes in three areas: care for patients with dementia, the availability of specialized geriatric treatment in the north and the delivery of home support services.
"In looking at all our programs and services in Prince George we will keep this framework in mind and we also want to reduce duplication and redundancy and we also want to treat seniors with dignity and respect," said Anne Chisholm, Northern Health director of community and residential services for Prince George.
Among the goals Northern Health has set out is to provide services to seniors so that they can live independently for as long as possible, that seniors services are connected to primary care homes and that there is enough support in place for family caregivers.
Chisholm said finding the best way to treat patients with dementia became a top priority because they often don't fit in with the traditional residential or complex care options available in Prince George. Part of the plan is to look at what physical changes need to be made to Rainbow Lodge to best accommodate those needs.
"There comes a point where it's difficult to care for and manage these folks at home," she said. "There's a population within the dementia population where it's not their physical needs that need the support, it's their cognitive and social (needs)."
When it comes to geriatric care in general, Chisholm said treatment can usually be done within Northern Health's traditional model -- but there are instances when that's not possible.
"From time to time there are specialized assessment or treatment plans that need to be developed that we need to look to a specialist for," Chisholm said. "It's figuring out what that's going to look like, how are we going to do that in Prince George and across the north, given limited specialist availability. We don't have the answer to that yet."
A working group has been established and it is expected to report back in the next two to three months with ideas.
The third priority is to better understand the current home supports Northern Health is offering seniors who still live on their own but need some help with everyday living tasks. Chisholm said organizing and scheduling the services is a complex task and its possible there are ways to tweak how it's delivered so it can be done more efficiently and possibly serve more people.
"We know from our design work that home support needs more attention, it's a very vital and valuable service and we need to be sure that it's designed and we're offering it in a way that's effective and meeting the needs," she said.
The first thing Northern Health did was to dig deeper into exactly what was being offered and how. That data has been analyzed and an action plan is expected to be developed shortly.
Although the specific changes in each category have yet to be determined, Chisholm said it's possible many of them will be behind the scenes and patients may not even notice they've been made.
She said developing the new framework was important given the aging population in the region.
"We have a large seniors population," Chisholm said. "The population is growing in terms of seniors. . . . we know it's an important population to pay attention to."