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Nurse on call

Program offers clients health advice over the phone

Gail Martin shares a moment with daughter, Michelle Martin-Strong, and granddaughter, Danika Martin-Strong
Gail Martin shares a moment with daughter, Michelle Martin-Strong, and granddaughter, Danika Martin-Strong.
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About TeleCARE

BY LIZ KATYNSKI
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, January / February 2012

At 74 years of age, Gail Martin says she is feeling better today than she has in a long time.

Over the last few years, Martin says she has dropped 70 pounds, reduced her blood pressure and learned how to keep her blood sugar level under control.

"I feel better than I have in years," the Winnipeg grandmother says. "And when people see me, even compared to where I was last year, they are amazed."

Ask Martin to account for her improved health and she will respond with one word: TeleCARE.

Developed several years ago, TeleCARE employs registered nurses to help clients with heart problems or Type 2 diabetes better manage their conditions. In addition to monitoring patients, nurses also help clients set goals for themselves, such as reducing their blood pressure, controlling their blood sugar, eating a healthier diet and becoming more active.

"The program, which works closely with health-care providers, was designed to teach clients self-management of their disease," says Audra Kolesar, Clinical Project Manager with the Provincial Health Contact Centre.

Martin's improved health underscores the program's value.

She was referred to the program by her family doctor in 2006 after being sent to hospital to be treated for congestive heart failure. When she got home, the TeleCARE nurses started calling her to track her overall health and check her medications. They also encouraged Martin to take her own blood pressure, weigh herself on a regular basis, and report the numbers to them.

They also taught her about the importance of eating healthy and cutting back her salt intake. She learned that canned and processed foods, including many diet and low-fat foods, tend to be high in salt and should be avoided. They also encouraged her to get more active by joining aquacize classes.

When Martin was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes soon after starting the TeleCARE program, the nurses helped her to manage that condition as well, helping her to control her blood sugar and reduce the need for medication.

Now, thanks to the improvement of her overall health, Martin can do the little things that she wasn't able to before - like walking up the hill at the cabin with the rest of the family without huffing and puffing. "It really helped me to turn my life around," she says.

Martin's experience has turned her into a big supporter of TeleCARE. "This is a fantastic program. The nurses are nice and easy to talk to," she says, noting that she has a close relationship with two of her TeleCARE nurses. "They give advice without sounding like they are giving advice. I have pamphlets and I pass them out. I share what I have learned with my kids and encourage them to start watching their health, too."

Kolesar says Martin's story is not unusual. "We know TeleCARE is an absolute success. We build a relationship with clients," says Kolesar. "People in our program absolutely find it beneficial. It helps them to improve their selfmanagement and confidence."

Liz Katynski is a Winnipeg writer.

Wave: January / February 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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