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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Why patients and family caregivers disregard referrals to community services


July 30, 2018, by Paul Cavanagh,

Patients and family caregivers may disregard referrals to community services for a variety of reasons. Some may just want to get back to living life and finding a “new normal” after enduring interventions from a dizzying array of health care workers. Others may be reluctant to check out community programs that they assume won’t be a good fit for them. 
For stroke survivors, this may mean that their recovery doesn’t reach its full potential, according to Margo Collver, Community and Long-Term Care Coordinator with the Southwestern Ontario Stroke Network. “A lot of times people think that once you’ve hit three to six months, stroke recovery is done,” she says. “We’ve seen some pretty amazing stories of recovery even years post-stroke.”
The community stroke rehab team (CSRT) out of Parkwood Hospital in London may see a patient for six to eight weeks in their home before referring them to a stroke-specific day program, such as the one operated by Dale Brain Injury Services. Rather than simply giving the patient or family caregiver the contact information for the program at Dale, a member of the CSRT goes with them, a practice referred to as a “warm referral.”
“Actually visiting the program with them makes a huge difference,” Collver says. Patients who assume the day program will be filled with old people, sick people, or people with dementia see that Dale’s stroke-specific program isn’t like that. “It’s really a continuation of their rehab journey.” In addition to providing an opportunity to socialize and have a good meal, the program allows participants to use special equipment that can assist with their recovery (for instance, helping them regain balance or control of movement).
Just as crucially, these programs provide family caregivers with much needed respite. Some adult day programs in the region also provide onsite support groups for both stroke survivors and their caregivers, including a coffee group that gives caregivers a chance to talk with others sharing similar experiences.
To find stroke-specific resources, visit for your part of Ontario and click the yellow Stroke Resources button on the home page. If you can’t find a button, type “stroke resources” into the search tool at the top of the screen.
Share your experiences
If you’re a family caregiver, what’s helped you overcome any reservations you might have had about making a connection with a community service that you were referred to? 
If you’re a health service provider – whether or not you’re involved in stroke care – what’s helped your patients and their families overcome any tendency they might have to disregard referrals that you may make?
Join the conversation on our Family Caregiving Forum.