At Willow Lodge Home for Special Care in Nova Scotia, staff had always felt their residents were happy and content.
But when the Tatamagouche nursing home started using quality indicators as part of a provincial pilot project, that thinking was stopped in its tracks.
To assess the well-being of her residents, Matheson used measurement tools developed by interRAI, an international research collaborative, in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Health Information."Our rates of depression were over 50%," says Betty Matheson, Willow's Director of Nursing. "And at that time the instance of little or no patient participation in activities was about the same. That was a real eye-opener for us."
The tools allow her to monitor not just how individual patients are doing but how her nursing home is doing as a whole, compared with other long-term care facilities, using evidence-based quality of care indicators.
Matheson and her team examined residents' medications and their activities. She says they changed their approach to patient care by looking at the resident as an individual with specific needs. They overhauled the home's activity program to better reflect the interests of the lodge's 61 residents.
"If they're happy watching their soaps, you might think they're just sitting in their room, that they're not involved," Matheson says. "But if that's what they've watched every day for the last 50 years, that's certainly an activity for them."
Residents are now doing more than ever before, with a range of activities to chose from, such as music, dancing, card games and pet therapy.
"For years we had no one who liked to bake. Now we have a lady who bakes every day," she says. "She's just having a great time. We also have a lot of people who now enjoy bingo."
Not surprisingly, depression rates at the home have dropped by half.
"Depression is something we watch very closely," Matheson says. "It's a major thing among the elderly. They can start to spiral downwards very quickly."
Without the data and the quality indicators, however, she says they never would have known what they were dealing with. Today, staff receives data in real time.
"It's wonderful. You can instantly see how you're doing and compare yourself at different times," Matheson says. "Our staff is always keen on anything that will benefit the residents, and first and foremost, I'm a caregiver. If I didn't see a benefit for my residents, I wouldn't be doing it. But the data doesn't lie."