Our healthcare system is outdated, created in 1967 our system has not adjusted to reflect gains in healthcare and an aging population.
How might we create a more enriching experience for the elderly to connect with their community?
Our team was given the option to work on 1 of 5 areas of potential innovation in the Canadian public sector. These challenge areas are in response to Prime Minister Trudeau's mandate letters to his ministers covering:
We chose to explore the topic of Population Growth & Infrastructure because, it has tremendous opportunity for human- centered change in upcoming years with the governments need "Design Strategy" approach. We focused on Canadian seniors because we had the potential for collaboration with the Sheridan's Center for Elder Researchas well as numerous personal experiences with the Canadian senior care system.
Two of our group members, both had close family members that were struggling in the senior care system and we looked to see what we could learn from these experiences.
Most Canadians need some kind of support as they grow older. From shoveling their driveway to getting out of bed, seniors are often reliant on friends and family to assist with tasks they can no longer handle. This puts increased strain on these family members and with seniors set to make up a quarter of the population by 2030, the problem will only get larger.
With such a large problem area, we broke it down into four areas of exploration:
On June 8, 2017 my grandmother passed away at 94. She lived on her own in Windsor, Ontario for 24 years with assistance from my mother & the CCAC (Community Care Access Center). In the final years of her life she experienced loss of vision, taste and hearing, only able to get by with constant care and support.
Six years ago when her health began to deteriorate, we explored in home care options. The CCAC provides all government funded in-home care in Ontario but caps it at 17 hours per week no matter the impairments of the individual. To supplement government provided care, we hired a number of professional caregivers but even they burn out quickly and none lasted over 2 months.
Over the past 3 years, my mother spent 500+ days in Windsor (a 3 hour drive from home), providing care, handling bills and struggling to get even 12 hours a week of CCAC support. The emotional and physical toll of her efforts was obvious and I want to prevent it from happening to other families.
Unfortunately, this is not a new story:
Over 25% of Canadians are providing at least 10 hours of informal care to a senior family member each week while juggling work and their own family.
To better understand the people experiencing these challenges we build a journey map that followed 9 months in the life of a retired senior. The information in the map is based on another group members experience with her grandfather, who was an informal caregiver for his wife, who suffered from dementia.
The journey map helped point us in the right direction by creating a more personal connection with the people our problem area was affecting. The journey map showed us the struggles that an informal caregiver goes through, from spending hours helping the person to experiencing loss and grief.
Our primary persona was based on our groupmates grandfather. It was especially useful because it showed two very different parts of his life, before and after his wife passed away. Jim felt some relief after his wife's passing, the worries of waiting for a slot in dementia specific care and trying to stay in the same facility as his wife were gone.
Without the burden of caregiving, Jim has started searching for a new place to live, where he can be more active in his community.
So far, the majority of our research had been anecdotal or from secondary sources. To strengthen our platform we reached out to some professionals with experience in the industry. We talked with a member of Sheridan's Center for Elder Research, a facility on our campus that conducts studies on ageing patient care. They are also an adult day care facility for senior patients with dementia.
The waitlist for their services is over 6 months long.
Speaking with them helped open our eyes to the government side of the issue. In our previous research, we focused primarily on personal support workers (PSW's), their training and wellbeing. We learned from the center that respite facilities, which help give caregivers a break, are in desperately short supply and often underfunded.
The addition of these facilities would be a great start to reducing caregiver burnout.
With this information we came up with some key points to potentially focus on with our research and to ask about during our interviews:
We spoke with a past executive from the Community Care Access Center (CCAC), who gave us insight into how funding and operations work for in-home senior care at the provincial level. She outlined some key areas that were causing inefficiencies in the system:
On the opposite side, we conducted an interview with a personal support worker currently working in a long-term care facility in Toronto. Coming into this interview we assumed, based on our research, that she would be overworked and generally unhappy in her position. It turned out to be the exact opposite, she loved her job & showed us the bright side of being a personal support worker.
The information we gathered from the interviews encouraged us to dive deeper into the federal funding system and the legislation that was in place to fund these programs. We also looked into the types of training programs that were available for PSW's, and their standardization, because it seemed that with proper training becoming a PSW is a great career.
When you research a topic for months, there is a point where you know so much that it's hard to pull yourself back into a smaller more feasible solution. Our team got together and we wanted, once and for all, to get our strategy completely laid out. We grabbed out sticky notes and diverged to answer the question:
How might we deal with the senior crisis?
All roads lead to education & government support in the healthcare system. We tied our primary categories of Social Change, Community Care, Intergenerational Engagement and Infrastructure all to education. By improving the education system's take on aging and care of your elderly we would promote a more inclusive and supportive society that is backed by supportive government policy.
The final deliverable in our project was a 3' x 4' megamap that presented our findings & conclusion in a strong visual narrative. We started out printing all our individual visualizations and then running quick prototypes of our map structure on the whiteboard.
Over the final month of our project we transitioned from the paper prototypes to a completed design that told a story. We structured the map in five sections:
This structure allowed us to quickly try different arrangements and designs without needing to change the content. We structured the map on a grid system, allocating a specific amount of space for each element and used the visual hierarchy of our type to lead viewers through the map.
The typographic system and layout gave the reader the option to either quickly peruse through the headers or spend 10 minutes reading everything. Whichever option they chose will give them a understanding of the Canada senior system, it's inefficiencies and our proposed solutions.
This was the first large scale research project I've worked on and one that is very important to me personally. Having the opportunity to improve a system that I have seen the negative effects of first hand was a great experience.
I learned a ton about organizing a larger team and spreading out work. Most importantly I learned not to get sucked into the big picture, because in our case the big picture and the individual were both equally important.