Creating Momentum

Categories: Advocacy, Research|By |Published On: |

The Alberta Collaborative generated people-centred culture in continuing care

Marlene Raasok. Photo courtesy Marlene Raasok.

Marlene Raasok. Photo courtesy Marlene Raasok.

With an extensive 30-year career in planning, continuing care operations and post-secondary education, Marlene Raasok has spent plenty of time defining and deciphering health-care nomenclature. Language has played an important role in establishing and guiding the modern shift from a medical, task-based model of care to a social, relationship-based model. However, the words we use lose their value if we don’t all share in their meaning.

“Many times, we make comments without being clear on what they mean,” she says.

Research shows that while many different care delivery approaches can have a positive impact on continuing care, the most successful organizations name their desired transformation and embed these new practices within their operation.

Raasok has also spent more than three decades advocating for and advancing change in how we support older adults to live well. Now retired and living in Alberta, Raasok acts as a senior advisor in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Collaboration for the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging and, with her “free time,” supported the Alberta Collaborative for Leadership for Person-Centered Living. The Alberta Collaborative, a grassroots initiative that began in 2016, joined “congregate living and care” leaders — care organizations, educators, researchers and families. Its mission was to support culture change in continuing care delivery and workforce development by identifying, defining and sharing the universal attributes of “people-centred practice.”

The same things that are important to residents and families are important to people working and volunteering. They are not just a vehicle to an end. They are collaborators in the journey.

— Marlene Raasok

“It was really important to have the time to reflect and hear from all of us, to put words that we often use into a practice with meaning,” she says.

For three years, the Alberta Collaborative met three times a year and included several continuing care organizations, educators and researchers such as Bow Valley College, University of Lethbridge and University of Calgary’s Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging, Alberta Health Services as well as family caregivers and advocates. Drawing from evidence and collective experience, the Alberta Collaborative identified the many attributes of “people-centred practice,” which include moving from task-based work to relationship-centred approaches; anchoring individual preferences and priorities in their care; fostering understanding and inclusion of diverse needs of people across a range of ethnic communities; and valuing and supporting resident and employee linkages. The group presented these universal attributes to providers, policymakers, system-designers and educators through guidance documents, meetings and conferences.

“The opportunity to come together and learn from each other not only expands what we see, but creates momentum,” says Raasok. “We can’t get there from here if we don’t all take it on.”

Raasok says the first big shift in continuing care delivery was moving from a medical model to people-centred care, where residents were placed at the centre of the conversation. The model evolved to person-directed, often described as “nothing for me without me,” where the individual’s role was elevated as directing their care. Creating an environment of people-centred practice is the next shift, where those delivering the care are also included as partners.

“The same things that are important to residents and families are important to people working and volunteering,” says Raasok. “They are not just a vehicle to an end. They are collaborators in the journey.”

The Alberta Collaborative ultimately sees people-centred practice as everyone coming together to be at their best, to live with well-being and to work with meaning.

Raasok says the Alberta Collaborative’s efforts have already generated change. In May 2020, the group published FACES, supported by LEADing attributes for organization success, an infographic and guidance tool for organizations to understand and apply people-centred practices. The concepts were used by Bow Valley College to incorporate people-centred practice into its Health Care Aide Training Program for the 2020-21 academic year.

“These insights can guide organizations in thinking about what we create, and how we enable the best possible outcomes,” says Raasok. [ ]