A Grateful Family Shares What Sets Grand River Apart
Ongoing, compassionate support is the foundation of the Continuum of Care at Grand River Hospital. Health care professionals from across disciplines come together at the Freeport Campus to provide specialized treatment and care for patients living with or recovering from chronic and complex health conditions.
A person-centred approach is an integral part of the Continuum of Care, and in dementia care, this type of comprehensive approach is particularly valuable. Getting to know each patient and learning about their lives facilitates meaningful connection that allows care providers to personalize care and incorporate activities that are significant to the individual. It’s something Dr. Koke and his team on the Geriatric Assessment and Neurobehavioural Units strive to do for everyone they care for.
“If you know what [someone] enjoyed before they got sick, then you can appeal to those parts [of them],” Dr. Koke explained. “You don’t want to be playing music for somebody who’s not a music lover, but if music does touch a part of their soul, then we need to focus … on that.”
One such individual was Lorene Donaldson, who began receiving care from Dr. Koke after being diagnosed with vascular dementia, congestive heart failure and complex needs at Grand River last fall. Both impressed by and grateful for the exceptional care she received, Lorene’s family had nothing but the highest praise for Dr. Koke and the team of hospital staff who cared for her.
"Under Dr Koke's leadership, Lorene was treated as a real person with a real family, with a real career [and] with a life’s devotion to the community,” said Susan Engels, Lorene’s daughter-in-law. “They got to know who she was as a person and what she loved.”
Notably, Dr. Koke and his team took the time to learn about the things that were meaningful to Lorene, like her love of art, being a grandmother and her experience as an entrepreneur with a family business in Stratford. They got to know John, Lorene’s loving husband of 65 years, and her four sons — they even asked to see family photos.
Beyond their gratitude for the exceptional way Lorene was cared for, her family also appreciated that the team’s approach to care extended to the entire family. Susan recalled the incredible way that the staff supported John throughout Lorene’s time at Grand River.
“When [Dr. Koke] said, ‘You can call me any time,’ he meant it,” she marvelled. “He spent time at the bedside with Lorene in John’s company, explaining what was happening in real time as her treatments progressed. That was unbelievable and incredibly calming for John.”
They valued the way Dr. Koke clearly and patiently explained complex information about treatment options — highlighting the options his team had considered and why the selected approach would be the best way forward — and took the time to answer all their questions to ensure that they were comfortable with Lorene’s treatment plan. It was this incredible level of compassion, attentiveness and care that stood out to the Donaldson family and made their experience so exceptional.
“This is why we are so grateful,” Susan explained. “It’s what sets Grand River Hospital apart.”
Dr. Koke attributes this high level of care to his entire team, which is comprised of a number of clinical and allied health professionals who each play a distinct and important role in the various aspects of care.
“I could not do this job if it wasn’t for the team,” he said. “Geriatric and dementia care has to be a team approach because we’re all appealing [to] and dealing with different parts of their person and their personhood.”
Like every care provider he works with at the hospital, Dr. Koke also considers donors and supporters to be an important part of the extended care team. Supporters are key to elevating patient care because their generosity is what enables hospital teams to take patient experience to the next level and sustain it over time.
“For years we’ve been wishing for more supports, things that we can do to help patients from a non-pharmacological point of view,” Dr. Koke explained when asked about the need for community support at the hospital.
Electronic pets, for instance, would provide patients with around-the-clock interaction and companionship, while baby dolls in a nursery set-up on the unit could appeal to a patient’s basic instincts to nurture and provide care. Wall puzzles, on the other hand, would offer cognitive enrichment and inadvertently encourage patients who use wheelchairs to stand without making it the focus of the activity. Ultimately, his vision is to be able to inspire enhanced patient engagement on the unit.
Profoundly grateful for Dr. Koke and his entire team, the Donaldson family is helping make this vision a reality. John decided to honour the team and demonstrate his gratitude with a generous gift that will allow them to acquire these types of therapeutic tools to enhance neurobehavioural care. When Dr. Koke learned of the family’s immense generosity, his gratitude and deep appreciation was palpable.
“The team was very excited,” said Dr. Koke. “When we brainstormed the different things [we could do to enhance patient engagement], it was really apparent that we were all excited to finally … have finances available to do … all the non-pharmacological [things] that we’ve always known are helpful but never had the resources to do.”
“John was particularly interested, as was the family, in things that would help manage the emotional and behavioural impact of the illness,” Susan explained. “He wanted others [who] come after Lorene … to be able to get the best possible care and that sometimes involves an investment in technology that hospitals struggle to provide.”
We will all need health care at various times throughout our lives, either for ourselves or for someone we love, and alongside Dr. Koke and his caring team, the Donaldson family’s generosity will ensure the highest level of engagement and care for everyone who comes to the Geriatric Assessment and Neurobehavioural Units in the future. Their gift will make a profound difference for those with complex cognitive needs and their families, making sure that no matter where on the continuum their health care needs may fall, they can receive the best possible care right here in our community every step of the way.