Anyone who has ever dealt with a chronic illness, or supported someone who lives with one, knows that it can be overwhelming.
It can sometimes seem that the constant interaction with the healthcare system can be a full-time position in itself; doctor visits, hospital visits, tests, and more tests, sometimes travelling to specialists and larger hospitals in the Okanagan or Lower Mainland.
For some it can all be too much to cope with at a time when they are least able to cope.
Now, a new healthcare project is being initiated in the Trail/Castlegar area that hopes to demonstrate that people with life-limiting chronic illness can benefit by being supported and informed by a home-visiting healthcare professional.
The Trail/Castlegar Augmented Response (TCARE) project is a University of British Columbia research project, jointly funded by the Peter Wall Foundation and the Vancouver Foundation.
Brenda Hooper, a retired community health nurse who has worked extensively in the Trail/Castlegar area in the palliative care field, has been brought on board as the local coordinator for the new program.
“This is for the people who are struggling, when things start to get worse and they’re having to go to the doctor a lot,” Hooper said. “They’re often in between first diagnosis and the end stages when they might require end-of-life care.”
TCARE is a totally voluntary project, providing in-home support on a weekly basis to individuals from Trail in the south up to the Playmor Junction and including the Fruitvale area out to Ross Spur.
“I make one-hour visits and try to not overstay my welcome,” said Hooper. “I’m there to not just work with the person with a condition, but also with their caregivers. Ideally I’ll be working with a pair but some don’t have any kind of caregiver. I’m there to hear their concerns, maybe help grease the wheels of dealing with the healthcare system.”
Participants could be dealing with a range of chronic illnesses, including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, HIV, and other serious debilitating issues.
Hooper helps obtain information for those who feel they might be missing key pieces of information regarding their condition and treatment and she helps sift through the complicated information they receive from their physicians and other healthcare specialists.
A secondary aspect of the project is to offer an after-hours number for participants to call with any questions or concerns they may have regarding their condition.
“It will either be myself or a local nurse practitioner, who is working with us, available to take the calls, not a receptionist or call centre,” said Hooper. “One of the advantages of this program is that people will see the same face and the people they call are familiar to them. If they have something they might think of as a little thing that they might not want to take to the doctor, they can call.”
One of the goals of the project is to demonstrate that, by providing home and phone-based support, it is possible to help people manage their own care more effectively and reduce costs for the system at the same time.
“Save emergency visits and save needless suffering,” Hooper said. “Sometimes people wait for the healthcare system to tell them it’s time and the healthcare system waits for the people to ask. This is about taking it upstream to people before they crash down.”
There are still a number of spaces open in the TCARE research project and anyone interested in participating or finding out more can contact Brenda Hooper at 250-512-7721, or by email at email@example.com.