Creating new linkages between the caregiver, the community and health care is essential

Genevieve Obarski, Executive Lead, Program Implementation 

In January, February and March, The Change Foundation team had the privilege of traveling across Ontario to launch the Foundation’s four Changing CARE partnerships. Each launch event was an excellent showcase for each partnership, bringing together the family caregivers, patients, providers, and other community stakeholders that will be part of this initiative. At every stop we’re asked “Why here? Why this project?”


In some ways this is an easy question. All four partnerships had common key characteristics:

  • The organization’s Executive leaders championed the idea and placed it in their organizations strategic plan.
  • Family caregiver experience was a current major organizational priority.
  • There was a strong focus on provider engagement, education and behaviour change related to caregiver experience.
  • The organization was prepared for co-design work with caregivers as demonstrated by existing patient/family engagement activities.
  • Proposal scope, target population, and provider engagement strategy supported the potential for spread and culture change in the organization and the community.
  • Each lead organization had partnerships that would improve the caregiver experience inside and outside their facility’s walls.

It’s this last point that has become increasingly important to the Changing CARE initiative. Caregiving is not a role that only exists within the confines of a hospital or doctor’s office. Providing support and care, of any kind, requires caregivers to piece together services and resources from organizations that exist across the continuum of care and deep into the community. To connect with caregivers on a meaningful level, it is imperative that we understand and link together the networks they are likely to use.

Each Changing CARE partnership has already reached out to a broader community network in one way or another.

  • The Embrace partnership will see the Cornwall Community Hospital and the Cornwall and District Family Support Group reach caregivers of individuals with mental health problems.
  • In Toronto, Sinai Health System and WoodGreen Community Services will work closely together to create a hub for caregivers looking for support and leverage WoodGreen’s extensive community networks to ensure caregivers are identified.
  • St. Joseph’s Health Care London will lead a team of community partners that include Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex, the Canadian Frailty Network, and the South West Local Health Integration Network, among others.
  • Lastly, the Connecting the Dots partnership is being led by the local hospital network and family health teams to directly connect and engage with caregivers across Huron and Perth counties.

However, this kind of local, grassroots work is not always an easy task. The silos that can exist between health care and community care services can be a barrier to collaboration. But identifying common bonds and groups of stakeholders can be one solution. For the four Changing CARE partnerships, linking already existing networks of services was a key realization of a stronger together mentality on a local level.   

This work is merely beginning. The next step for our Changing CARE partnerships will be to leverage these combined networks to reach local family caregivers and invite them to collaborate and co-design supports/resources that work for them.

The potential for these projects, however, is exponential.

Finding new solutions to address caregiver issues, we need a diverse group of people and organizations with a holistic, community-based vision. Through Changing CARE, we’ll encourage and foster these new linkages for the benefit of all Ontarians.

Click here to view our Changing CARE videos

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