Seniors care program started in Kitchener to expand to more places across Ontario

A program started in Kitchener to help seniors better manage their medical needs, including specialists and medication, will grow to include more geriatric specialists and pharmacists across Ontario.

The province announced $4.1 million over two years to fund GeriMedRisk, which helps seniors with complex medical needs access care quickly and easily. It connects physicians, nurse practitioners and other health-care professionals with geriatric specialists online, by phone or fax, to work collaboratively to address the needs of patients.

The GeriMedRisk program began as a pilot project at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging and was developed with several partners, including the Grand River Hospital. The provincial funding will help hire new geriatric specialists and pharmacists to help expand the program.

Dr. Sophiya Benjamin, co-executive director of GeriMedRisk and Schlegel Chair in Mental Health and Aging, said they want to focus on providing more fulsome geriatric care.

“We don’t shy away from complexity when we work with older adults. It’s usually not just a mental health condition or a physical health condition — it’s both. And very few clinical environments are built to deal with both at the same time,” she told CBC News during a media event Friday.

“I’m a geriatric psychiatrist. So if someone has depression, and they have renal failure and they have a heart condition and they’ve been falling, they don’t have to go and see four different specialists.”

smiling people standing in a row
Local leaders and hospital staff were at an event Friday to celebrate the $4.1-million funding announcement for GeriMedRisk. (Aastha Shetty/CBC)

Dr. Joanne Ho is the other co-executive director of the program and Schlegel Chair in Geriatric Pharmacotherapy. As a clinical pharmacologist and geriatrician, she has specialized in dealing with all physical health conditions.

“What we see is that there is an opportunity to work together leveraging digital health and with our team of expertise to be able to share that beyond one city and to be able to share that across Ontario,” she said.

“So even if someone is in a rural area, remote area or maybe just has a very long wait list … we just want to be able to help and and to do so faster.”

GeriMedRisk also helps prevent overlap of medication that could give an adverse reaction and send seniors to hospital.

Ho and Benjamin said GeriMedRisk uses a online consultation platform to reach patients and primary health-care providers across the province.

Local leaders made the funding announcement at Grand River Hospital’s Freeport campus on Friday.

In a media release, Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the funding will help “ensure people of all ages can access the right care, in the right place.”

“Our investment to expand GeriMedRisk will help Ontario’s seniors connect to the care they need, in their community, allowing them to stay at home longer with help to better manage their health and avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room,” Jones said.


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