Members Making a Difference: Mary Anne McDowell

Mary Anne photoMary Anne McDowell is part of the HELP programme- Hospital Elder Life Programme. As part of this team, and under the supervision of a staff occupational therapist, she visits with older patients in an attempt to improve their hospital experience, and to support their eventual return to previous levels of functioning.

The hospital experience can be overwhelming for folks, especially over time. When removed from their regular routines, and structures, while feeling unwell and stressed, it is not uncommon for older patients (70+) to experience temporary delirium. Without support and stimulation, this temporary state can become more permanent, and can lead to both physical and mental decline. Research has shown that supportive visits, and stimulation, can significantly help these folks recover fully, with the goal of hopefully returning home.

Mary Anne works a 3 hour shift, once a week, visiting patients identified by their nurses as being at risk for delirium. They are interviewed by her supervisor, and put on her visitation list , with their fully-informed consent, if they meet the programme’s criteria.

Her visits can range anywhere from 2 minutes to an hour, depending on the needs and willingness of the patient. We have great talks about their lives, interests and hobbies, and about other things like current events. She will often offer the patient materials and activities to use once she’s gone, ranging from books and magazines, to word puzzles and Sudoku, to adult colouring. Sometimes the biggest help is just to talk with a visiting family member, or to relieve them when they need a break -and a trip downstairs to Tim Horton’s!

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