Improving Access to Healthcare for Elders of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation

Jenna welcomes Dr. France Chassé, co-leader of the Madawaska’s Elders Initiatives Project with Micheline Plante, Community Health Representative at the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. They discuss the health needs of the aging population of the community. They talk about technology to assist them, especially a custom mobile app and other services developed to help seniors live safely at home longer.

We’re all aging, and everyone’s talking about it!

Key Takeaways

[:45] Jenna welcomes today’s guest, Dr. France Chassé.

[1:13] Dr. Chassé explains the Madawaska’s Elders Initiatives Project. She shared the needs of the aging population within the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation.

[1:58] Three challenges characterizing the of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation community: the size, the two official languages, and the remoteness.

[2:18] There was an increased demand for transportation to health appointments and specialized health care. In some cases, this involved language barriers. There was a decreased number of informal caregivers to help elders in their homes.

[3:05] Using available funding, a partnership between the University of Moncton and the First Nation Community Health Center created the MEI Project — a project designed to reduce difficulties for elders accessing health care and services. The MEI Project proposed a mobile app connected to the Community Health Center.

[4:03] Elders from the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation were invited to participate in data collection. This data helped to identify health needs. The MEI Project developed initiatives to meet these needs.

[4:35] Three categories of initiatives were offered. The first was for transportation, accompaniment, and translation. The second was for home services, indoor and outdoor. The third was for other requests.

[4:59] The MEI Project hired a local company to develop a mobile app and put it in the Apple App Store. Since it was for seniors, Apple released 30 licenses free of charge. The apps were placed on iPads that connected to the First Nation Community Health Center.

[5:34] The MEI Project hired and trained a member of the community as a Global Health Assistant employee. This person speaks both languages, has confidence, shows respect for elders, and is resourceful, with a good driver’s record.

[6:14] As of now, 29 of the 36 participants received an iPad and participated in the four-hour training sessions in both languages, presented to small groups of elders. The employee helped to train the elders to use the technology. About a year ago, after two weeks of practicing and adjustments, the NEI initiatives were implemented.

[7:09] The MEI Project stays in the community but uses the University’s facility and expertise for statistical analysis.

[7:59] The mobile application is available in both languages. The application uses images, symbols, and drop-down menus to offer choices to the participant. There are simple instructions on each page. On sending a request, the elder receives a confirmation message immediately and a follow-up phone call within hours.

[9:12] The Project tried to anticipate every usability issue. They consulted with the elders before releasing the app. After training, two older participants returned the tablet after a couple of weeks because they did not feel comfortable with it.

[10:26] The Initiative provided cellular phone to the project employee so the participants that do not use the tablet could call the employee instead of using the app. The employee uses the iPad app to complete the application for the participant so the system has the information.

[10:51] When an elder that is not enrolled in the project calls for assistance, the employee completes the application for them and they are enrolled and given an iPad and training at a later date. The employee is always available to help seniors complete their requests.

[11:47] So far, 29 of the 30 iPads are loaned to Madawaska Maliseet First Nation elders. The Project purchased five additional iPads. Recently the Project did an application update and Apple generously released 30 more free licenses.

[12:19] The Madawaska Maliseet First Nation Chief and Council purchased an adapted vehicle, demonstrating the importance given to the well-being of seniors in the community and a lasting commitment to the future of the project. The Initiatives are expected to stay in place after the Project is over.

[13:04] The Project came at the right time, giving access to care by remote technology during the pandemic. The mobile application accumulates information about the number of requests received, the nature of these requests, the different services used, and the users’ appreciation level.

[13:33] The transportation, accompaniment, and translation service remains the most popular initiative and the appreciation level is very high. The Project is slowly observing an increase in technology use to request services. The elders are now more autonomous in taking charge of their health needs.

[14:06] Based on other requests through the app, the Project has added four additional services: transportation home after a hospital discharge, telephone follow-ups, equipment loans, and friendly visits. Elders also use the technology for other needs such as contacting family and friends, reading the news, or playing games.

[14:43] The elders installed other applications on their tablets for memory exercise, healthy recipes, physical activities, and more. They feel less alone and isolated because they are now connected to the outside world.

[15:33] There is still work to be done to promote the MEI Initiative. They planned monthly activities for the elders but they had to cancel them due to the pandemic. The Project plans to deliver several workshops on healthy lifestyle habits and the prevention of disease.

[16:08] The Project would like to give more advanced training sessions to elders who want to use the iPad to pay bills, order medications, or order groceries. Another plan is for a doctor to be able to meet a patient through the iPad.

[17:01] Jenna looks forward to hearing more as the Project continues and she thanks Dr. France Chassé for being on the podcast, especially in English! Thank you to all listeners!

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Mentioned in this episode
The MileAGE Podcast
Madawaska Maliseet First Nation
Madawaska Maliseet First Nation Community Health Center
University of Moncton Edmundston Campus

More about your hosts
Jenna Roddick at APPTA
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Jenna Roddick on LinkedIn

More about today’s guest
Dr. France Chassé holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Moncton as well as a master’s and doctorate from Laval University in Quebec. She is a full professor in the Nursing Department at the University of Moncton Edmundston Campus. Dr. Chassé works in the fields of community health, health promotion, illness and injury prevention, international and intercultural health, women’s health, health education, program evaluation, and continuous program improvement.