A Caregiver’s Guide to the Holiday Season

While the holiday season is a magical time of year, many of us feel stress during this extra busy time – from finding that perfect gift to making your home a winter wonderland to caring for loved ones. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by our seasonal “to-do” lists and when caring for a friend or family member is added to the mix that stressful feeling is amplified.

This is one of the reasons the Central West CCAC is here. Our dedicated team of Central West CCAC care coordinators will be out in the community during the holiday season, alongside our service provider partners, to deliver care to patients and their families. I have no doubt that they will continue to do a tremendous job of providing high-quality health care during this busy time.

But what about the caregivers who also work tirelessly throughout the year? There are a number of self-serve resources available to caregivers and families that can help you balance it all this holiday season:

  • Download our Caregiver Support Guide to help you create caregiving strategies during the holidays and throughout the year
  • Find support in your community through the Central West Healthline, which provides up-to-date information about over 1,000 heath care services and resources in our region
  • Follow us on Twitter for caregiver tips on how to make the most of the holiday season
  • Know your health care options so you and your family can receive the right care, in the right place this holiday season

Most importantly, take time to enjoy the season by asking for help from family and friends. By sharing the caregiving responsibilities you are able to participate in the special holiday moments and know that you’re appreciated for all you do. This also allows you to take a break to rest and recharge. It will go a long way in helping to keep you well and prevent you from burning out, because if you’re not well it becomes even more challenging to take care of others.

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Transforming the patient experience one ‘neighbourhood’ at a time

Whenever we move into a new season, I can’t help but think about how life refuses to stand still. From cooler temperatures to the vibrant colour, change is all around us. I think it would be safe to say that we’ve had a transformative year at CCAC as we’ve elevated our partnership with Headwaters Health Care Centre and William Osler Health System and redefined how we work with our community partners.

All of this has brought us to the launch of our aptly-named Transformation project. We’ve changed everything – from the physical boundaries of our catchment areas to our relationships with primary care providers.

In short, Transformation will improve the patient experience. CCAC teams will work more closely with our system and community partners, as well as with each other, to make sure patients continue to receive the community-based health care supports they need.

The first step was creating four distinct ‘neighbourhoods’ that are closely aligned with Health Links boundaries in the Central West region. Each neighbourhood consists of teams that are responsible for coordinating care for patients who have primary care providers in their particular area, which include Dufferin, Bolton-Caledon, Brampton-Bramalea, and North Etobicoke-Malton-West Woodbridge.


Next, we set out to change our working relationships with primary care providers in the community. Care Coordinators will work more closely with these providers than ever before to ensure that patients and families receive the community home care services they need. Here’s how we’re going to improve the patient experience through Transformation:

  • Care Coordinators will meet with primary care providers on a regular basis to discuss their patient’s health care needs and how the CCAC can help provide support in the community. This will help create a more seamless experience for patients and families.
  • Primary care providers will be able to tap into the knowledge, skills and experience of the CCAC team get a better understanding of what community health care services and resources are available and how they can access them in order to benefit patients.
  • Care Coordinators will spend even more face-to-face time with patients to provide better support and develop stronger relationships that will really help them understand the individual care needs or each person.
  • By having one point of contact, there will be fewer transitions between Care Coordinators when a patient’s condition changes, so they can feel more stable and confident in their care.

We know that patients want – and deserve – more seamless care across the health care system. The Transformation project is an important step in making this a reality.

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How we’re transforming the patient experience for you at Central West CCAC

It’s always exciting welcoming someone new to our leadership team. It’s even more so when that person is taking on a role that is one of the first of its kind in the province, and set to lead your organization on a journey that will completely transform your business.

In July, Mary Jane McNally joined the Central West CCAC, Headwaters Health Care Centre (Headwaters) and William Osler Health System (Osler) as Chief Patient Experience Officer (CPEO). This role was born out of our innovative back-office partnership announced last August to support our collective focus on being leaders and innovators in the area of the patient experience.

As an integral part of our patient experience team, Mary Jane is leading our Patient Experience and Health Equity & Inclusion teams to help us to better understand what is important to patients and their families, and to help us improve and enhance the experience for them across the hospital and community settings

For most of us, the ‘patient experience’ is a complex concept. In our business, it can be anything from the tone in our greeting when we are in the home or on the phone, our body language during a care episode, or a visit to our website to learn more about a program or service.

Understanding how complex it is, our team engages with patients and families in a number of different ways to create an environment that supports an exceptional patient experience. Here are just a few examples:

  • We are strengthening and more consistently embedding the role of ‘Patient Advisors’ in our corporate initiatives. This is helping us to capture personal experiences even more effectively to influence how we deliver care.
  • We have committed to providing all CCAC staff with specialized training with a customer service focus to ensure we are communicating most effectively with our patients and families.
  • We lead inter-professional and inter-provider care debriefs on interactions with patients and families so that we can learn from our actions and if required, adjust processes to better meet patient needs.

Mary Jane has just started in her new role as CPEO, but already – I can feel the energy and momentum building amongst our teams for the journey that is ahead of us. I’m looking forward to sharing the results of our efforts in the time ahead, as well as our learnings as we seek to enhance the experience of our patients across the region.

Contact the Patient Experience Team!

Mary Jane McNally, Chief Patient Experience Officer Maryjane.mcnally@williamoslerhs.ca 905-494-2120 ext. 50197

Amy Whidden, Regional Director, Patient Experience amy.whidden@williamoslerhs.ca 905-494-2120 ext. 57445


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Innovative partnership produces results and sparks creative collaborations

Ever do something that you think is a great idea, that you feel deep down is the right thing to do, but still carries an element of risk?  And then it turns out even better than you expected? That’s how I feel today, reflecting on the anniversary of our back-office integration with our hospital partners.

One year ago on August 5, 2014, the Central West Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) with Headwaters Health Care Centre (Headwaters) and William Osler Health System (Osler) announced a first in Ontario; an innovative partnership that joined our non-clinical (administration or ‘back office’) support functions to improve our collective ability to meet the health care needs of our communities.

The Central West CCAC has always worked closely with our acute care hospital partners in the Central West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) on initiatives to improve patient transitions from hospitals to the home or to community care. This move took our partnership to a whole new level however, and has been a year filled with great success and a lot of learnings.

As we hoped, we built solid foundations and delivered positive results. What we didn’t expect was the wave of creative ideas for further collaborations the integration is inspiring among the partners! Read on for just a few examples of our work over this past year:

Regional Planning Initiatives

For the first time, all three organizations worked together to create our Quality Improvement Plans and Annual Business Plans.  By aligning our goals and monitoring them using a set of common metrics, we will have a more positive and far-reaching influence on patient experience throughout the Central West region.

 Joint Leadership Structure

We created a new Joint Non-Clinical Executive Team that has allowed us to pool our collective resources and share the expertise of all three organizations. The new Joint Vice Presidents, who report to all three CEOs, are responsible for five cross-organizational portfolios: Facilities and Redevelopment; Finance; Human Resources; Management and Information Technology; and Patient Experience, Communications and Strategy. This new approach to leadership of these functions has really energized the senior teams; it’s exciting to work in an environment that fosters collaboration and creative thinking with partners who share common goals!

Regional Seasonal Surge Planning and Response

The integration proved its value as we planned for and responded to a large patient surge due to a spike in flu activity during the exceptionally busy holiday season. Between December 22 and January 4, there was a 13 per cent increase in patient visits at Headwaters, and a six percent increase at Osler’s hospitals. During that same time period, the Central West CCAC experienced an almost 63 per cent increase in patient referrals from hospitals!

Yes, you read that correctly: 63%. The CCAC plays a crucial role in helping hospitals free up acute care beds for those in urgent need by safely transitioning patients to the community as soon as possible after they have been through the Emergency Department or hospital inpatient units.  The CCAC helps create this much-needed space by arranging the home or residential care necessary for patients to make the safe transition from hospital to home.

To ensure our patients continued to receive outstanding care, the three organizations acted quickly and responded as a team – enabling us to discharge patients, knowing those who needed excellent care at home would be able to receive it.

A Great First Year

While the first year has produced excellent results, the amazing thing is seeing how each collaboration sparks more ideas for improving the patient experience in the Central West region. This is an exciting time for health care in this region, and the best is certainly yet to come. We are looking forward to sharing more news about this partnership in the time to come.

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OACCAC Releases White Paper

Recently, the Ontario Association of Community Care Access Centres (OACCAC) released a white paper called Making Way for Change: Transforming Home and Community Care for Ontarians. Grounded in evidence and built on the premise that home and community care reform is essential to health care transformation, the paper outlines four practical recommendations for positive change that build on our sector’s ability to increase access, quality, and value for money.

Across the health care system, many of us are grappling with how to best meet the diverse and evolving needs of our aging population. With 700,000 patients last year, CCACs are caring for 101 per cent more people than in 2003/2004, many of whom (73% more than in 2009-2010) have increasingly complex care needs.  To ensure a truly flexible and sustainable home and community care system, Ontario needs home care that is more responsive to patients’ needs and choices, provides more streamlined access, ensures optimal value, and enables the rapid, system-wide adoption of innovative best practices.

The recommendations in Making Way for Change call for action in four areas:

Create flexible, adaptable home-care service models that recognize and respond to the unique needs of patients;

Stabilize sector funding to ensure more equitable, evidence-based and predictable funding decisions that support better patient care;

Strengthen province-wide and regional health system capacity planning and ensure that future home and community care needs are built into long-term planning; and

Introduce a modern, patient-centred legislative framework for home and community care.

CCACs are committed, together with our partners, to building more accessible, responsive, and sustainable home and community care – and I know my team in Central West is eager to contribute to this critical work.   Please click here for more information, and to review the full report. I welcome your comments!


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Towards More Integrated Care

As a health care leader, I feel privileged to work in one of the best health care systems in the world.

However, like many, I also know it can be better.

In fact, it’s frequently noted that our health care system is less a “system” and more a series of distinct organizations. While each organization strives to provide exceptional, patient-centred care, historically we’ve done so from our own silos. In recent years there have been great efforts to change that, and there are many examples of successful cross-sector collaboration, including here in Central West. Now we want to keep that momentum going!

We’re fortunate in this region to have excellent relationships with our partners at William Osler Health System and Headwaters Health Care Centre. And together, we’ve been asking ourselves how we can provide even more seamless care for our shared patients. The synergies are obvious: at the CCAC, we’re serving people with increasingly complex needs, many of whom have just been discharged from the hospital. Some of those patients will also return to the hospital while they’re receiving CCAC care.

As they interact with our organizations, are we doing everything we can to ensure we are best meeting their needs?

From a patient perspective, we know the experience can be disjointed. They wonder if the people involved in their care are talking to one another. They are confused and sometimes concerned about the many distinct components of their care. And they, too, question what can be done to streamline processes and ensure our precious health care resources are used to their greatest benefit, now and for future generations.

Together with our hospital partners, we’re excited to embark on a unique partnership that will explore these challenges and implement solutions. While we’ve always worked closely with our hospitals on the clinical side – and that critical work continues – we recently announced a formal non-clinical integration of our support departments. We did so with the full support of our Boards, who also saw value in leveraging our collective expertise in areas like patient experience, information technology, finance, human resources, organizational development, strategy, and communications to better serve our community. By integrating these essential support functions more closely, we expect to find efficiencies and, ultimately, support more seamless patient care.

This integration is the first of its kind in Ontario, and while it’s early days, we are tremendously excited about the possibilities. Already, I hear staff throughout our organization engaged in thoughtful dialogue about how our new structure will enable positive change for both patients and the health care system. I look forward to sharing more in a future post!




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The ice storm that recently wreaked havoc on much of Ontario generated many compelling stories of courage, frustration, selflessness, and heroism.

It highlighted, as such crises often do, the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities inherent in our day-to-day systems. Even the best-laid plans need to be tested every once in a while, and this storm tested many of us, both as individuals and as organizations, in spades. It also brought into focus the importance of a strong, integrated health care system working together to help protect some of the most vulnerable among us.

As a CCAC, we are tremendously fortunate to have both highly skilled staff and strong partnerships here in our community. I invite you to read this letter to the editor in the Brampton Guardian, which illustrates how such a combination enabled us to ensure our patients’ safety and continued care, both during the storm and throughout the year.



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