They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same could be said for caring for our elderly and complex patients.
Many of us know the heavy responsibility of providing hands-on care – some professionally, some personally, and some both.
As a Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), we work with providers to support the needs of Northerners and their caregivers. It’s important that care plans be based on the needs of the individual.
And, we need to remember that “the system” is actually people. In others words, we’re working to strengthen our health care system and improve patient access and patient experience.
While people may have the same chronic condition, illness or disease, their choices for care differ. Many people prefer to stay at home for as long as possible with supports to meet their needs.
Colette Methé is an extraordinary caregiver who is making that possible for her two sisters. She has worked with various agencies and her own family to create a circle of care around them so that they can stay in their family home in Sudbury.
I share her story, because she is a truly remarkable woman, who has gone above and beyond what most of us would ever consider undertaking to look after our loved ones.
Colette serves as the full-time caregiver to both her youngest sister, Connie, 57, and oldest sister, Rachelle, 70.
Colette is working with both family and health care professionals to integrate care around Connie and Rachelle. She relies on her other siblings, including sisters Marielle Wells and Carmen O’Hara, who live in Sudbury, sister Danielle Cloutier, who helps out when she travels home from Oakville, and her brother Clément Methé. However, Colette is the primary caregiver.
This important role means Colette can never stay away from their home longer than two hours, as she is the only one trained in suctioning — that is removing fluid — from Connie’s lungs. A seizure followed by other health complications left Connie (who also has Down Syndrome) mainly bedridden, requiring both a trach and feeding tube. Her pink bedroom now has, in addition to many Hello Kitty accessories, a hospital bed and lift. Colette even purchased an expensive air-filled pressure mattress to prevent bedsores.
Rachelle, who suffers from brain damage, also has mobility issues and now needs a wheelchair to get around.
The family also relies on daily CCAC nursing care and personal support services. There are two regular nurses who provide consistent daily care for Connie and personal support workers.
Their family physician, Dr. Paul Rheault, also now makes home visits. He’s no stranger to the family, as Colette taught him chemistry at College Notre-Dame. They’ve even tapped into a mobile blood testing service for Connie, avoiding a costly ambulance ride out of their home for such tests.
The role of caregiver is not new to Colette; she took early retirement to care for her parents who have since passed. Her sister Marielle describes her as a “very caring person.”
“I don’t see my life any other way,” Colette said.
As the health care system continues to evolve and become more integrated, the voices of patients and caregivers, such as Colette, will become stronger. We recognize that the system needs to be patient and caregiver friendly to support people like Colette to care for loved ones at home.
The North East LHIN is supportive of the proposed legislation recently introduced by the provincial government referred to as the Patients First Act which supports people like Colette and the many wonderful Northerners who are showing us – through their daily actions – the importance of putting patients first as we continue to improve the patient experience in Northeastern Ontario.