This is reprinted from the latest edition of Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation’s Well Aware magazine

Imagine your life changing. One day you’re healthy and living at home and then, suddenly, you experience a stroke. The next thing you know you’re in a sterile hospital environment. You can’t move your arm; you can’t get up and walk; you can’t even communicate with your loved ones and others.

Now imagine your recovery. In many cases it’s entirely possible to return to a full and healthy life. Where would you rather do it? In an institutional-like setting or a place that’s reminiscent of home?

This is what the professionals at the City Hospital Inpatient Rehabilitation Centre had in mind when they created Bringing Home to Rehab. The $78,000 initiative is aimed at making recovery the best it can be for the centre’s patients.

Health care worker with patient

“Our inpatient unit has 33 to 35 beds,” reports Marla Fieber, Manager of Interprofessional Practice for the Centre. “The intensive rehab program is for people recovering from a variety of illnesses but mostly neurological conditions such as stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury other neurological disorders, amputations, and multiple trauma.”

Fieber says the average stay on the ‘rehab ward’ is 36 days, but some can stay for as long as three to four months. Forty per cent of patients are from outside the Saskatoon Health Region, with a significant number from northern communities. “People are away from home and they’re away for a long time,” she says.

Dr. Fern Stockdale Winder, a registered doctoral psychologist with the region, says the relatively new but stark nature of the ward affects some patients quite negatively. “The current environment is very institutional. This makes it difficult for some patients, especially those who have experienced trauma – such as survivors of residential schools. They can find it very difficult to be in an institutional-type setting.”

It is also difficult for people to find their way around, because all the walls in the centre are the same shades of grey and white, she adds.

The make-up of the Rehabilitation unit is culturally diverse. A number of patients are of First Nations or Métis background; there are also several patients who are new to Saskatchewan from many different countries. Dr. Stockdale Winder states, “Through Bringing Home to Rehab, we want to create an environment that promotes healing by being welcoming and inclusive of all cultures.”

She says that the project has three important pillars which you can help fund. “The first of these is creating a more welcoming, inspiring, and culturally responsive physical environment. Within that, we want to promote wayfinding and improve accessibility. Our second pillar is to enhance cultural responsiveness in our daily work in the unit. Finally, we want to provide the comforts of home to ease boredom and loneliness.”

Bringing Home to Rehab is composed of three key elements:

First, creating a more responsive physical environment.

This will focus on the dining room in the unit, the main hallway and the reception area but will especially include the dining room tables, which Dr. Stockdale Winder says, “are currently okay if you have wheelchairs that are standard height. We want to have tables that are adjustable and can accommodate different heights particularly for people who are in wheelchairs.”

Second, art that welcomes, inspires, and is culturally inclusive.

Pieces that could be included to make the centre more inspiring could be ‘wheelchair art,’ possibly created either by current or former patients working with an artist in residence. The art would also see First Nations, Métis, and Dene or cross-cultural works. These would be chosen by patients or with assistance from First Nations & Métis Health Services or agencies such as the Open Door Society. This initiative would also include a ‘Northern Wall,’ either a mural, a wall hanging or a larger print.

“We know that many of our patients from the north or rural Saskatchewan miss things like lakes, rivers and trees and we’d like to have something like that.” Dr. Stockdale Winder observes.

Gabe Lafond, Director – Representative Workforce and First Nation and Metis Health with the Region, agrees. “Physical surroundings, including art, that reflect First Nation and Métis culture is one important part of helping a ward to be more culturally inviting for its patients.

“It is important for us to ensure that our environment reflects First Nations and Metis peoples’ values, including a sense of place and space. We are working hard to ensure that our space provides a comfort and familiarity for First Nations and Metis communities.”

A final aspect of this item would be the creation of a decal collection that allows patients to personalize their rooms during lengthy stays, Dr. Stockdale Winder adds. “Many of our patients who come from the north really come with the clothes on their backs. They wind up in a stark hospital room with nothing else. We’d like to have a collection of things that people can put on their walls to make their spaces while they’re here a little more personal.”

The healthcare professionals know this model works because of success with similar initiatives in the region at Sherbrooke Centre, Parkridge Centre and Oliver Lodge.

The third element is Comforts of Home.

This would include the purchase of entertainment and communication devices adapted for use on Rehab to allow maximum independence. A communication cart would include a laptop, alternate controls, voice activated programming, microphone and video camera. An entertainment cart would see a laptop with access to programs such as Netflix as well as a DVD player and DVDs. This item would also include the purchase of freestanding communication or entertainment devices that would be loaned to patients – e-readers with audio commands and audio output, and iPads or tablets.

Health Care worker listening to patientDr. Stockdale Winder says this is needed because, “there are a lot of people who have difficulty communicating – their hands aren’t working the same or they have speech problems or can’t read. We’re looking for a variety of things that can help people communicate easier and more independently. It really helps people feel less isolated. It’s part of what keeps people motivated during that long process of recovery.”

Dr. Gary Linassi, Unified Head of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at City Hospital, brings home the rationale for supporting this initiative. “We provide exceptional care for people at a low part of their lives. We wanted to find another way to enhance our care and this initiative does that. We want to help people plan for a new part of their life in an environment they know and understand. Making the ward a more comfortable place, where they can think about what the future holds rather than dwell on what’s happened to them, is a good first step.”

Bringing Home to Rehab fits with the hospital’s new care model, Dr. Linassi adds. “It shines a light on what we’re doing at City Hospital. We’re person-focused rather than health provider- or disease-focused. What better way to show this than to create the most comforting environment possible?”

Would you like to create a more welcoming environment for the hospital’s rehab patients? Call 306-655-8489 or visit SCHFdonate.com.