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Support shift

The decision to move a loved one into a long-term care facility is life altering.

The decision to move a loved one into a long-term care facility is life altering.

A now vulnerable, once-independent person must navigate a new environment and rely on strangers to ensure his or her well-being. 

Family members tasked with managing the final years of a loved one’s life face an emotional and often guilt-ridden journey. In some cases, breaking a sacred promise to keep a loved one at home until the end is heart-wrenching.

You quickly become acquainted with powers of attorney, emergency rooms, acute care, long wait lists, unanticipated financial burdens and an over-burdened health care system.

Your ability to help becomes restricted. Safety rules and regulations restrict a family member’s ability to assist. Waiting for assistance from often over-worked health care workers can seem time-consuming and frustrating.

St. Albert’s Youville Home, operated by Covenant Health, is trying to change that.

The 232-bed facility on St. Vital Avenue is providing video training under a six-month pilot project so families who want to help their loved ones in care can do so themselves instead of waiting for a staff member to help.

It's a common-sense program that will undoubtedly ease the emotional burden for many families, and a future where this program can be rolled out to other long-term care facilities in Alberta is one that cannot come soon enough.

The eight videos, created in partnership with NAIT’s Digital Media and IT program, cover a variety of high- and low-risk duties, including eating, using a chair lift and brushing hair.

Having family members trained in chairlift operation will save time and frustration. Currently a lift requires two staff. Trained family members will no longer be at the mercy of two staff members’ availability and can quickly alleviate the stress and anxiety of a loved one.

“If we don’t have to wait and (the family member) is trained, then the resident gets better care, and the family member and everyone is less frustrated,” said Cecilia Marion, the senior director at Youville Home who is leading the initiative.

Not only do the video sessions help alleviate a burden on front-line workers, they also offer people in long-term care facilities a measure of dignity and compassion by giving the people they love and respect a chance to lend a hand.

“I have relatives in care and it can be so irritating when you can’t do these simple things to make them feel that you care,” said St. Albert resident Nadine Walker, 55, as she walked along McKenney Avenue on Thursday. “I think it’s great that this kind of training can be taken. It’s really great for families who don’t just want to stand on the sidelines, who want to help any way they can.” 

Giving families the chance to participate in the ongoing care of someone close helps to maintain bonds built over a lifetime. Programs like this one help to make a difficult situation more bearable.