Improving Transitions Into Care with Technology

A case study with Community Living North Bay

Group of people gather outside on a track, one of them using a wheelchair
Photo from Community Living North Bay

Community Living North Bay is a not-for-profit service provider located in North Bay, Ontario. They have over 250 staff members who provide a variety of services to the people of North Bay and the surrounding areas.


 
group of people gather outside a house
Photo from Community Living North Bay

Before using Wearable Technology


In October 2019, CLNB had a new person join their care. Her name is Alana. She had previously been living at home with her family and was getting ready to move into a group home managed by CLNB.

The support team was a bit nervous about how Alana would navigate the transition from living at home to group living. Alana was probably going to be nervous too. You can never really know how someone will react to a shift in their living situation. For many, it can be a significant stressor. Plus, as a support team, it takes time to get to know the person you support. You can expect a fairly steep learning curve, not to mention that the person who is moving has to get used to a different environment and make all the adjustments that come with living in a new home.


The support team at CLNB had confidence they would gain Alana’s trust and knew they would be able to help her thrive, but they predicted that they had a long road ahead. Initially, they anticipated it would take years for them and for Alana to navigate this big shift in her life.


The first few weeks were really challenging. It was clear Alana wasn’t able to be herself. With all the new things in her environment, self-regulating was incredibly difficult and sometimes anxiety would take over. Studies show upwards of 59.7% of people who have an intellectual or developmental disability struggle to communicate. Alana is one of them. Sometimes she was not able to let her support team know when she was starting to feel anxious, which led to escalations that required the use of intrusive measures. To manage her anxiety, there were a number of different strategies inherited from a previous support plan that the team would use to diffuse tensions. This included an as-needed anti-anxiety medication protocol, and as a last resort, an environment protocol.


An environment protocol refers to changing the physical environment of the person being supported to reduce stressful stimuli. This can include using a seclusion room to remove someone from a stressful environment.


Behaviors that challenge can take a long time to address. Getting to the root cause of such big emotional releases takes time, dedication, and patience. But, without being able to assess the cause of behaviors that challenge, interim treatment options are limited and can be inadequate. While medication and environment protocols can be effective in reducing acute anxiety, they tend not to enable any long-term improvements in anxiety. In other words, they can work well in the moment, but they can’t treat the root cause of anxiety. Environment protocol use, in general, is considered an outdated practice with negative outcomes for all parties involved.


For Alana, the use of an environmental protocol was truly a last resort option. The ultimate goal was to eliminate this protocol entirely. The team knew they would be able to get there eventually by learning all about Alana - her likes and dislikes, how she expresses herself, the things that trigger her anxiety, and all the factors that influence her wellbeing. They knew that they would be able to overcome the barriers affecting her quality of life given time and the right tools.


 

Introducing Wearable Tech in the Support Environment


Awake Labs met CLNB shortly after Alana had joined them in the group home. At the time, the support team was on the lookout for tools that would enhance their support and help them learn everything they could about Alana. One of these support workers is Kim. She is the primary person who worked with Alana. With her years