Friday, June 4, 2010

The Gage Transition to Independent Living

Picture yourself as a young adult with a severe neuromuscular disorder, say cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. You’ve always lived at home, lovingly cared for by devoted and highly protective parents. However, you’re 19 now and you chafe to leave the parental home and establish an independent life. But living independently is not easy! You have lots of special needs in caring for yourself. Maybe you have to be able to handle special catheters or other equipment. Perhaps you have to manage a ventilator – something usually reserved for trained professionals. It’s a daunting task.

And then you have to navigate all the trials and tribulation of day-to-day life while dealing with your disease. How do you co-ordinate all those medical appointments your parents used to manage? What medical facilities are fully accessible via wheelchair? Indeed, what hairdressers are? How do you find your way through the thicket of bureaucracy to gain access to the housing and disability allowances you need? Since you’ve probably been over-protected all your life, your self-confidence is not high and that makes everything harder.

The Gage Transition to Independent Living program is intended to help such people learn to handle the responsibilities of living on their own. Located on Merton St. in mid-town Toronto, the Gage provides bright sunny one-bedroom apartments, designed for the special needs of people with disabilities. While providing full attendant services to cater to their clients’ physical needs, it takes them through an all-encompassing 18-month program while providing a individualized learning program encompassing health management, housing assistance, stress management, right down to planning meals and cooking.

The Gage is run by the West Park Healthcare Centre and our latest board meeting was held at the Gage. I joined this hospital board, because of their commitment to innovation, because of my respect for board members and management, and because they believe in the concept of a hospital which extends beyond just the hospital.

At our board meeting, we heard from a Gage client who fit the description above. This engaging young lady – at 30 she’s a bit above the usual age - described how persistently she had to lobby to get her parents to let her come. She described taking her first subway ride – it wasn’t as hard as she thought. She was proud that she’d learned how to cook. And she choked up as she told us how she’d gained so much self-confidence at the Gage.

Chronic disease accounts for 46% of disease today and in ten years, will rise to more than half of all disease. Many of these patients are currently ‘stuck’ in acute care hospitals, which are not ideally suited to their needs and whose costs far exceed West Park’s. Unlike the episodic nature of acute care, West Park is all about continuing care, and caring for the whole person. The Gage is an important part of that vision.

West Park’s is all about The Road to Recovery, and the Gage is all about The Road to Independence.


joie de vivre said...

Hi there,

I am working on a project for school that is looking at the Gage. I would be thrilled if you wouldn't mind answering some questions about it!



Lib Gibson said...

It's great that you're doing a project on the Gage!
Please provide your email and I will ensure someone gets in touch with you.
I've not done this before, but I've clicked a setting that directs follow-up comments to come to my email, so you address shouldn't be publicized.