Ontario Funding Program To Help Seniors Struggling with COVID-related Cognitive Impairment

Senior patients with limited physical mobility are at an increased risk of pressure injuries. One of the ways we provide quality care to our senior patients is by ensuring regular assessments and early intervention (such as assistance with repositioning and hygienic care) to help prevent pressure injuries from occurring.

TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing over $432,000 in Baycrest to help people struggling with cognitive impairment as a result of COVID-19. The province is making the investment through the Ontario Together Fund.

Research has found that COVID-19 can lead to cognitive challenges for people, both as a consequence of contracting the virus and from the increased stress many have experienced during the pandemic. These cognitive challenges can affect anyone, but are more substantial for older adults.

Details were provided today by Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

“Made-in-Ontario healthcare innovations, like this pioneering project at Baycrest, are helping to improve lives, while increasing our life sciences competitiveness at home,” said Minister Fedeli. “Now more than ever, as families and communities confront the immense challenges of COVID-19, anything we can do to assist our medical professionals in their vital work is a priority for our government.”

Baycrest, a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education with a special focus on brain health and aging, is expanding and refining its Goal Management Training® (GMT) resources so that therapists across the province can apply this specialized approach in helping their patients improve cognitive functioning. GMT is an evidence-based cognitive rehabilitation program designed to help individuals with impairments in executive functioning to improve their planning and ability to achieve goals. This support from the Ontario Together Fund will help Baycrest train 500 therapists to provide post-acute care and rehabilitation to as many as 5,000 Ontarians living with COVID-19-based cognitive impairment. The expansion of the program will create 17 new jobs.

“Good cognitive functioning is necessary to effectively manage everyday tasks, whether on the job or at home. COVID-19 can have damaging longer-term effects on our brains, resulting in symptoms such as lack of concentration and memory problems,” said Dr. Brian Levine, the primary developer of GMT and a senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute. “With the support of the Ontario Together Fund, we have enhanced access to our evidence-based cognitive intervention, Goal Management Training® (GMT), to make it available for use in clinics, hospitals and the community through the development of new, easy-to-access online resources. With access to this highly effective treatment along with other supports, we can help those suffering with the longer-term effects of COVID-19 recover and return to their normal lives faster.”

“Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with new and more complex mental health challenges than we have seen in previous years,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Now, more than ever, it is critical that we continue prioritizing investments to address the long-term impacts of COVID-19. Through the Ontario Together Fund, this funding will see that the necessary resources are in place to fully support the many Ontarians facing COVID-19-based cognitive impairments. This is another important step we are taking to ensure Ontarians have access to the high-quality care they expect and deserve.”

Key features of the project, which will be announced at a May 27, 2021 workshop for clinicians and researchers, include:

  • Virtual training on a newly developed training platform, plus a live training workshop, to equip therapists with the knowledge and resources required for running GMT through telemedicine.
  • A new website to serve as a central hub for therapists, which includes user outreach membership onboarding, GMT training, resource hosting, access and community engagement.
  • Online patient-focussed resources, including interactive complex tasks and activities, as well as a digital GMT workbook. Parallel resources will be available in hard copy, recognizing that comfort with and access to computers may vary.

“Baycrest is grateful to the Government of Ontario for supporting GMT and recognizing its critical importance in helping Ontarians recover from the long-term cognitive implications of COVID-19,” said Dr. William Reichman, President and CEO, Baycrest. “This support helps advance research underway at Baycrest to help older adults live their best possible lives – during the pandemic and far beyond.”

“Baycrest has evolved from its humble beginnings as a Jewish Home for the Aged to a global research leader in aging, brain health, and geriatric care,” said Robin Martin, MPP for Eglington-Lawrence. “This is a critical investment to make at a time when we continue to learn more about the long-term health effects of COVID-19.”

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