Using Technology to Connect More Caregivers to the Support They Need, Close to Home

telemed over OTNWith Statistics Canada reporting that nearly half of Canadians age 15+ will support the health of a loved one at one point or another, providing help, education and support for caregivers is vital. That’s why the Alzheimer’s Society of Waterloo Wellington is in the process of merging health and technology to connect more residents to the caregiver support groups they need.

“We were unfortunately having some problems servicing residents who live in rural areas; the drive was far, especially for many of our clients who are age 65 and older,” explains Colleen Martin, a social worker with the Waterloo Wellington Alzheimer’s Society. “We might have one or two people attend and you really need about eight to have a good discussion to support the group dynamic.” 

Wanting residents who are caregivers to have the best experience and support possible, Colleen took her challenge to a Community of Practice meeting. This is where a number of health practitioners and community workers from different organizations meet monthly to discuss cases that need further help. The privacy of patients is protected but it provides a great opportunity to collaborate and share new ideas that may benefit residents.

“We were at this table, asking how we can support these residents and provide a quality experience through robust attendance when an Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) nurse suggested using telemedicine technology,” says Colleen. “She put us in touch with Julie from OTN to make it happen.”

OTN helps connect Ontarians to care using technology, minimizing factors like geography and time. People are able to get more out of the health care system, where and when they need it.

Julie, a regional portfolio manager from the Ontario Telemedicine Network connected the group with strategies and tips to effectively run the group remotely, and is providing staff with access so that they are able to provide one-on-one support to clients who cannot be seen in the office. As a result, the Waterloo Wellington Alzheimer’s Society will be trialing a dementia caregiver support group with residents from Mount Forest, Palmerston and Langs Community Health Centre in Cambridge.

If the group works well, the program will expand to provide support group and other services to more residents throughout Waterloo Wellington. 

“For a lot of people who are just starting to experience the disease, support groups can be a gateway to many, many other services. We’re building connections that foster trust. People become comfortable reaching out for support and we’re able to check in with them whichoften leads to us helping them navigate the system and access additional supports.”

“Dementia can be an extremely isolating disease for caregivers,” says Colleen. “Any opportunity we can provide to have a normal experience is important and that’s what these support groups do. It’s not just about learning something new, it also helps to build connections with other members.” 

The Waterloo Wellington LHIN provides funding to the Alzheimer’s Society of Waterloo Wellington to support people living with dementia and their family, friends and care teams through a variety of programs, services and resources.

community story featuring Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington and OTN

Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington Website

OTN Website