Supporting children’s families through a pandemic

The Paediatric Family Resource Centre is supporting an increasing number of families at London Health Sciences Centre’s Children’s Hospital

The Paediatric Family Resource Centre (PFRC), located on the first floor of London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) Children’s Hospital supports paediatric patients and their family members by providing individualized support. With the arrival of COVID-19, the resource centre closed its physical space and took its support to the families at the bedside and virtually. The number of patients and families supported by centre staff has increased significantly. Since April, staff have completed over 5000 interactions with patients and families to provide support, this totals more interactions than all of last year.

The PFRC is dedicated to supporting LHSC’s Children’s Hospital and is part of the Patient Experience Program. It is staffed by three Family Resource Facilitators and two Youth Resource Facilitators, all who have lived experience with Children’s Hospital.

“Since the Resource Facilitators have lived experience being a patient or having a child in hospital they have a unique understanding of how to navigate hospitalization. They also have a great deal of knowledge of both community and funding resources available to families. Having navigated these resources in past, they are able to assist families with filling out forms or connecting them to community resources,” explains Jill Sangha, Manager, Patient Experience.

The centre staff aim to connect with all new patients and families that are admitted to Children’s Hospital through the Bedside Orientation Program.  They also receive referrals through health-care workers, social workers and community partners.

With the closing of their physical space, the facilitators considered how best they could still provide support to patients and families. “We really thought about what does this look like, what are the pressures the families are facing, what can we do to help relieve the pressures and how can we still speak with and connect with families,” explains Darren Connolly, a family resource facilitator.

The PFRC has become mobile and is providing its services to patients and families on the floor where they are based. Connolly explains how the increase in visitor restrictions has made the isolation being felt by patients and their families more pronounced.

“One of the key roles they are playing during the pandemic is peer support for patients and their parents/care givers. Families have shared their worries and anxieties about parenting a child who is ill during a pandemic. They have shared the challenges of balancing child care, schooling and often loss of work.  They have all endured their social and community supports being cut off and have shared the burden of parenting an ill child in isolation. These families have felt the impact of the pandemic so much,” Sangha explains.

The focus of the facilitators is meeting the patients and families where they are at in their individual care journey. “It doesn’t matter where they are headed, just where they are currently at,” explains Connolly. As the parent of a child who spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospital, he can relate and empathize with the parents who are currently there. “We’re here to support families throughout their journey, and to help them create some positive memories today, despite everything else they are facing. It can be so overwhelming, but it’s important to try and stay in the moment.”

The family resource facilitators provide links to various government programs and community organizations that can best support a family’s needs. This includes introducing the family to the organization or providing support in filling out forms.

Becky Berwick, a family resource facilitator, has been meeting families either in person or by phone to walk them through the process of filling out forms for birth certificates to disability tax credit forms.

The different type of support provided depends upon the needs of each family. “Sometimes this comes in the form of borrowing a computer, lending an ear, or bringing a cup of coffee,” Connolly explains.

As the first wave of the pandemic begins to subside, the family resource facilitators are still providing individualized care and support to the families of pediatric patients. The PFRC has started to re-open as well, by appointment.

The Paediatric Family Resouce Centre, as well as the programs and resources that are available to families through it, are because of the generous support of donors to Children’s Health Foundation. For more information visit the Paediatric Family Resource Centre website.