The Thomson Centre in Whitehorse is the location of a reablement and respite unit that opened on Dec. 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

New program seeks to keep seniors in their homes

A 10-bed “reablement” unit has opened at the Thomson Centre

A new program is closing what Amy Riske calls “a gap in the Yukon.”

Riske, director of care and community with the Yukon government, spoke to the News on Dec. 11, the day after a reablement and respite unit opened at the Thomson Centre.

Riske said the 10-bed unit will be divided between respite care, which was formerly offered at Macaulay Lodge (the lodge is closing), and reablement beds.

The reablement component is the part that’s new, said Riske. The program is intended to help seniors regain the strength and independence required for them to remain in their homes.

Riske said the respite beds will continue to offer temporary support to friends and family who have been caring for loved ones, while the reablement beds meet a different need.

They’re for people, most likely frail seniors, who have been hospitalized in the past, and who no longer have acute issues.

It’s not a rehabilitation program, and it’s not sub-acute care, said Riske. The people coming into the program will be medically stable, they just need help regaining the independence that will allow them to return to their homes.

Riske said that, during admission, staff will work with seniors to identify what it is they need help with, and what their goals are for returning home. Some may have mobility issues they need to work on. Others may be dealing with feelings of social isolation, and in need of links to social organizations such as ElderActive Recreation Association.

Whatever the issue, Riske said seniors can stay in the reablement program for up to 90 days. Some may leave after a few weeks, while others may need that maximum period to regain autonomy.

She said what that looks like at the moment is “a little unknown.”

Reablement is fairly new in Canada, said Riske, and while a version of it has been done on an ad hoc basis in the Yukon in the past, this is a more focused attempt.

She said there are similar programs in Winnipeg, Australia and Europe. The Yukon government looked to those programs to get a basic idea of different models and best practices. However, there are some unplanned components because facilitators want to see what the needs are of the individuals who attend the program.

“We’re going to have to grow and monitor and change,” she said. “So we’re not setting firm lines at the start.”

Because there’s never been anything like this in the Yukon before, Riske said she doesn’t know exactly how many people to expect.

“There are enough people that really want to be at home and really have either lost that ability or lost the confidence in their abilities, so I think that is really big – to be able to have that environment that’s really supportive, but pushing you, pushing your limits and having that person’s identified goal,” said Riske.

One goal that is firmly outlined is the end goal, which is to have seniors return to their homes. Riske said that, looking at the reablement program in Winnipeg, the stats were that one-third of participants returned home, one-third found that they did ultimately need to go into long-term care, and one-third ended up back in the hospital.

“We’re hoping to actually do better than that,” said Riske, noting that the program isn’t a “flow-through place” where people go to wait for long-term care beds.

“It’s not a home,” she said. “It’s a station on your way home.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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