Bundle of Care program helps East Toronto residents with essential support at home amidst COVID-19

Ijeoma Ugochukwu, child and family support worker at VHA, sites beside Jean, an East Toronto resident and Bundle of Care client

Ijeoma Ugochukwu, child and family support worker at VHA, and Jean, an East Toronto resident and Bundle of Care client.

In the wake of the first wave of COVID-19 as community support services deemed non-essential had to close their doors indefinitely, vulnerable populations across the province were left without services they relied on for their physical and mental well-being. Seniors and those living with physical disabilities were in need of critical support as they stayed home in isolation.

Vulnerable clients across East Toronto felt this impact first-hand. VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) decided to take action by launching Bundle of Care funded by the United Way Emergency Community Response Fund. The program offered a range of services to seniors and individuals living with mental health challenges and physical disabilities across the city. Services included home support/homemaking, caregiver relief, extreme cleaning, hoarding support, shopping and deliveries by VHA volunteers.  

Bundle of Care launched in June 2020 and has since been seamlessly integrated into the toolbelt of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), with referrals coming from partners across the region including East Toronto Family Practice Network, Flemingdon Health Centre, Michael Garron Hospital, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Unity Health Toronto and WoodGreen Community Services to ensure residents receive the support they need to live safely at home throughout the pandemic.

“I feel grateful and thankful,” said Jean Tice, a 96-year-old East Toronto resident and Bundle of Care client. “I often have a hard time walking. It feels great to have someone visit me at home.”

Jean, who lives alone without any family nearby, was referred to Bundle of Care after a Michael Garron Hospital visit, where an occupational therapist connected her with VHA to increase her safety at home.

“Seniors and those living with physical disabilities experienced increased isolation and were left without supports when their in-home services were deemed non-essential and suspended due to COVID-19. Without support, clients’ mental and physical health can decline which can lead to  unsafe, unsanitary living conditions increasing the risk of emergency room visits, falls, malnutrition, eviction and homelessness,” said Lenore Cabral, manager of community support services at VHA.

Recognizing the increased need for support at home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lenore and VHA’s Community Support team came together to design and implement the program. After a successful grant proposal for emergency funding made available by the federal government through United Way Greater Toronto, Bundle of Care quickly began to take shape in the community.

Ijeoma Ugochukwu, VHA child and family support worker, works with Jean and other Bundle of Care clients in East Toronto. She helps people stay safe at home by assisting these individuals with tasks and errands that are challenging for them to do on their own. Ijeoma also sees the bonds she builds with clients as an equally important aspect of her role in the community.

“Seniors need our help,” said Ijeoma. “I’ve learned so much from Jean. We have a mutual understanding and a fabulous connection. She tells me about her life during every visit. I am glad we can provide a little help to Jean and other clients through this program.”