Essential Care Partner Support Hub
Caregivers are essential care partners and play a critical role in providing unpaid physical, emotional, and cognitive support to family members, partners, and friends in care settings.
The Essential Care Partner Support Hub, led by the Ontario Caregiver Organization, aims to achieve greater consistency in how family caregivers are identified, included and supported as essential care partners across care settings in Ontario, with an initial focus on hospitals and long-term care homes.
Implementation Support for Ontario Hospitals and Long-Term Care Homes
The Essential Care Partner Support Hub provides support to Ontario hospitals and long-term care homes planning to implement or enhance an essential care partner program. We offer:
- Guidance and coaching
- Leading practices based on organizations that have successfully implemented
- Resources, tools and templates
- Connection to settings and peers that have implemented
- Opportunities for learning and knowledge exchange
Join our Essential Care Partner Learning Collaborative, an interactive forum for healthcare organizations with a focus on caregiver inclusion.
Subscribe to our mailing list to find out about the next session.
What is an Essential Care Partner?
Essential care partners provide physical, psychological and emotional support, as deemed important by the patient/resident. This care can include support in decision making, care coordination and continuity of care. Essential care partners can include family members, close friends or other caregivers and are identified by the patient or substitute decision maker.i
There’s a difference between essential care partners and visitors. Essential care partners are necessary to the safety, quality of care, health outcomes and well-being of patients and residents. Visitors have an important social role but aren’t actively involved in care.
i. Healthcare Excellence Canada, Policy Guidance for the Reintegration of Caregivers as Essential Care Partners. September 2021. https://www.healthcareexcellence.ca/media/4btksgep/202110_policyguidance_en.pdf
What is an Essential Care Partner Program?
An Essential Care Partner program can help an organization to solidify their commitment to recognizing family caregivers as essential partners in care. Essential Care Partner programs involve the implementation of policies and leading practices, so caregivers are identified, included, and supported to participate as part of the patient/resident care team. They also remove barriers to care partner presence – even during health system pressures and outbreaks. Essential Care Partner programs are often part of a larger organizational culture shift towards more person and family-centred care.
Why implement an Essential Care Partner Program?
Evidence shows that when providers include caregivers as part of the care team, it improves patient/resident health outcomes, leads to a better experience for front-line providers and caregivers, and alleviates health system pressures. COVID-19 restrictions uncovered new learnings about the risks to patients and the health care system when caregivers are not able to participate in care.
Essential Care Partner programs in hospitals and long-term care homes are an important strategy for addressing current pressures in the health care system. They also lay the foundation for long-term recognition of the essential role of caregivers as part of our collective commitment to person-centred care and strengthening the relationship between staff, patients/residents and families.
Essential Care Partner Guiding Principles
These guiding principles lay the groundwork for organizational commitment to Essential Care Partner program implementation or improvement.
- Recognize that essential care partners (caregivers) are distinct from visitors and are necessary to the safety, quality of care, and health outcomes and well-being of patients/residents
- Recognize that restrictions to essential care partner inclusion can result in:
- Harm to patients/residents, particularly for vulnerable populations
- Increased caregiver distress
- Greater demands on the health-care team and the health care system as a whole
- Include and value the essential care partner as a part of the care team
- Enable and empower patients/residents to designate their essential care partners
- Minimize barriers to the presence and participation of essential care partners at all times, including during outbreaks and system capacity challenges
- Meaningfully engage care partners and patients/residents in the design and development of policies and person-centred practices related to visitors and essential care partners
The following leading practices demonstrate the key components of successful Essential Care Partner programs under each area of focus – Identify, Include and Support the essential care partner.
If you are a hospital or long term care home interested in learning more about the support offered by the Essential Care Partner Support Hub, we would be pleased to schedule a 30-minute introductory session.
The Ontario Caregiver Organization gratefully acknowledges the support of caregivers and our health system partners for their commitment to essential care partner inclusion and for collectively working together to make this work possible.