Special Care Counsellors: Helping clients regain their autonomy in the community

Special care counsellors
Special Care Counsellors Marie-Noelle Leblanc, Julie Perreault, Amy Zara and Orélie Cloutier-Guénette in the adapted garden and sports terrain at the Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre.

To some, grocery shopping may be an errand or a chore, but to rehabilitation clients, it can be a feat.

That’s why rehabilitation programs at the Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre turn to Special Care Counsellors, whether to help clients relearn how to make a trip to the local produce store, or find leisure or sports activities that are adapted to their needs. These members of the multidisciplinary Rehabilitation teams help maximize the client’s autonomy in their daily lives by connecting them with resources in their community.

“When meeting with a client for the first time, we ask them what their goals are, what they want to accomplish,” says Orélie Cloutier-Guénette, a Special Care Counsellor in the Traumatic Brain Injury Program at Constance-Lethbridge.

Special Care Counsellors accompany clients in day-to-day activities, applying the recommendations developed by therapists during their rehabilitation to their daily lives. Ms. Cloutier-Gunénette explains a typical scenario of a client who needs to be able to use public transportation, but is afraid of falling. First, a psychologist will work with them to reduce their anxiety. “After that, we accompany them on the bus, for instance, implementing the strategies of the psychologist, such as taking deep breaths, and looking far ahead.

Many clients turn to community and leisure activities to keep them busy and independent. This is where the expertise of the Special Care Counsellor comes into play. This past spring, special care counsellors at Constance-Lethbridge organized an activity with the Centre d’intégration à la vie active (CIVA) to introduce clients to boccia, a form of the lawn-bowling bocce game designed for people with a physical disability.

“We wanted our clients to have a chance to try boccia because it is accessible. You can play seated or standing up, so a person in a wheelchair can participate. It was also a great opportunity for CIVA to present the activities they offer to people with reduced mobility,” says Ms. Cloutier-Guénette.   “Certain clients prefer to try out the activity at Constance-Lethbridge first because it is easier for them. They often grieve for the abilities they have lost. By inviting the community resource to the place where they are receiving rehabilitation services, it can be easier to try something new. The event was so successful, the special care counsellors have decided to organize similar events at the Centre in the future.”

Special Care Counsellors are the eyes and ears of their program’s team. “We observe people in their daily environment, often in their home, while simulating such tasks as cooking,” says Ms. Cloutier-Guénette. “We then report back to our team, who propose how to improve conditions for our client so that they can feel confident and secure.”