Family Transition Program

Admission to long-term care tends to be an extremely stressful event for both residents and their families. In light of the tragic impact COVID-19 has had on long-term care, this is even more true today. While the typical approach is designed to support the person who will become a resident in long-term care, it tends to overlook the burden on family caregivers.

To solve this problem, the Family Transition Program team developed a new transitional program, the first of its kind in Canada, that both helps individuals contemplating long-term care and supports their families and caregivers. The program is co-designed with caregivers, who are committed to improving the experience for residents and their family members. It is set up to invite potential residents and families to get more closely acquainted with a host facility while waiting for permanent placement into a long-term care home of their choice, and is open to all individuals regardless of their location and which long-term care waitlist they are on.

This unique model of care helps new residents and their caregivers adjust to a new and unfamiliar environment in advance of their admission day. Prior to COVID-19, the program offered residents the option to visit as many times as they wanted to before moving. Future residents and their families could have a meal in the dining space, participate in programs, and meet members of the care team to begin understanding the routine.

Today, while in-person visits are not possible, the program team is finding new ways to care for families. Through active communication and therapeutic conversations, the team connects family members to the right community support systems and helps them maintain an overall sense of normalcy and well-being. The program is also offering over-the-phone assessments for potential residents, helping staff get more closely acquainted with the personhood of each participant prior to admission. This ensures a more seamless and comfortable transition process when family members cannot be present.

The program has had a very positive impact for both residents and caregivers. In its first year, the first fourteen participants demonstrated improvements in both depression and anxiety scales. The result for caregivers was also dramatic — with a 91% increase in quality of life measurement and reduction in caregiver strain.

This elegant and graceful solution to a very common problem has the potential to have impact on a much larger scale. We also believe that the Family Transition program can play a leadership role in designing and integrating families into the future of long-term care as the system changes and evolves post-COVID-19.