Quick access to virtual care

The pandemic has made life more challenging for older adults and their families, including those living with dementia. Thanks to our team at the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic, and government and donor support, more people in need of urgent care are getting it quickly.

Dr. Morris Freedman, Baycrest’s Head of Neurology, created a Virtual Behavioural Medicine Program in collaboration with the Toronto Central Behavioural Support for Seniors Program (TC-BSSP) to virtually assess and treat individuals with severe responsive behaviours in long-term care homes, acute-care hospitals or with their families at home.

These patients would usually require admission to an inpatient Behavioural Neurology Unit, which can mean waiting up to one year. They often end up in hospital emergency rooms when professional or family caregivers are unable to manage their behaviours.

Dr. Freedman says the positive outcomes of this new virtual pilot program include:

  • Elimination of a one-year wait list for Baycrest’s 20-bed Behavioural Neurology Inpatient Unit.
  • An anticipated 65% to 90% reduction in the need to admit patients to the Behavioural Neurology Unit at Baycrest.
  • Reduced pressure on acute care hospital beds.
  • The ability for staff in long-term care homes to care for residents with challenging behaviours without having to transfer them to acute care hospitals.
  • Helping family caregivers keep loved ones with dementia at home.
  • Improving the quality of life of patients and family caregivers.

“It is so helpful to have access to someone like Dr. Freedman who can walk you through those behaviours and help us respond appropriately,” said Dr. Pieter Jugovic, Director of ALC, Chronic Ventilation and Rehabilitation Programs at Michael Garron Hospital. “I am so grateful that we have access to his skill and expertise; it is a unique gift for which I call him the dementia whisperer.”

Dr. Freedman and his colleagues are also planning a groundbreaking project to create a web-based platform aided by artificial intelligence to help assess newly referred patients to the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic and allow the team to serve them more quickly.