For the next four years, an Island Health palliative care physician is partnering with a University of Victoria professor on a national research project to explore best practices to improve the quality of life for individuals who live in long-term care settings.
Dr. Leah MacDonald (Island Health) and Dr. Kelli Stajduhar (University of Victoria) will join researchers from Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta to evaluate promising programs, practices and policies in use in long-term care homes across Canada.
The recently announced $2 million research project is called Seniors – Adding Life to Years (SALTY).
“We know there are innovative care initiatives making a difference in long-term care settings and residential care homes across the country,” said Dr. MacDonald, medical director for Island Health’s End of Life program. “As a health care system and society, we need to provide an alternative to the highly medicalized way we approach the end of life. I am excited to be a part of this study, to bring a palliative care clinician lens to the research team.”
MacDonald’s passion to provide compassionate end-of-life care began early on in her medical training.
“It is such rewarding work, to be able to support individuals and their families who are impacted by advanced illness, to help them manage pain, distress and other symptoms, and to be part of an interdisciplinary care team to influence the quality of the living and dying experience for all involved,” she said.
Led by Dr. Janice Keefe from Mount Saint Vincent University, SALTY will involve decision-makers, clinicians, care providers and family/friend caregivers, ensuring that all voices will be heard.
“The focus on late-life care in nursing homes makes this project unique and urgently needed,” said Keefe, director of the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging. “Nursing home care in late life is under-researched and undervalued. This project brings together the leading researchers and influencers of change in long-term care in Canada.”
She added: “Our approach will actively engage the end-users of the research, challenge current thinking and practice, and involve robust multi-method health services research.”
Other project partners include: Dr. Carole Estabrooks, University of Alberta, Dr. Tamara Daly, York University, Dr. Ivy Bourgeault, University of Ottawa, and Heather Cook and Dr. Deanne Taylor, Interior Health Authority (Kelowna).
Together, the team will develop innovative strategies to understand and assess impact on quality of care and quality of life, with the aim of spreading effective approaches within and across jurisdictions. The project’s outputs will create change to improve long-term care and supports across Canada.
SALTY is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and Alzheimer Society of Canada.
MacDonald and Stajduhar have also conducted collaborative research in this area supported by Island Health’s internal granting program.
“We are committed to supporting research to improve both quality of life and care for our patients,” said Cindy Trytten, Island Health’s director of research and capacity building. “Collaborations like this between academic researchers, clinicians and patients and their families are critically important to make sure that the research and results are relevant, and meet the needs of the people we serve.”