Innovative support program will help seniors at home SMILE

-VON awarded contract by South East LHIN-

Belleville, February 25 – A truly innovative approach to home care was approved today for the South East region. The SMILE program – Seniors Managing Independent Living Easily – will empower seniors and their caregivers in the South East to access home support services that are individualized to their specific needs.

"We are extremely proud to bring this program to seniors living at home in our region," says Georgina Thompson, Chair of the South East Local Health Integration Network. "It gives them what they deserve – more autonomy, more control, and more dignity in living at home." The SMILE program, which will be piloted starting in 2008/09, gives seniors who are living at home, but need help with everyday functioning, the ability to choose services that they need in order to live in safety, health and comfort.

The Board today also approved the Victorian Order of Nurses (Ontario) Canada as the administrator for the program, representing a total investment of $17.4 million over three years across the region. The South East LHIN Board of Directors approved both motions at its Board meeting today.

Empowering seniors to make their own choices

"We are extremely proud of this initiative because it’s a brand-new way of looking at how to support seniors continue living at home even when issues of frailty challenge their ability to fend entirely for themselves. Through this new program we are saying, ‘Let seniors and their caregivers decide for themselves what services and supports they need in order to sustain a healthy, safe lifestyle at home, and give them more options,’" says Ms. Thompson. The key to the program is that it offers core services that are essential to maintaining independence at home, and does not replace existing services available now. Rather, it gives seniors the flexibility to fill in any gaps in a way that suits their own needs and circumstances the best.

If a senior wants to hire someone to help with a home-support need such as transportation, laundry, shopping, socializing, running errands, or chores, SMILE will allow the individual to develop or choose an individualized solution that works for them. "For instance, that might mean compensating a neighbour or local business for a home-care service, or tapping into services from an existing community support service agency," says Ms. Thompson. This innovative approach allows seniors to consider the full range of services that are available to them locally, using funds from SMILE to fill in any gaps.

Selection criteria for participating in SMILE will be based on frailty and need. The idea is to reach those seniors who have the greatest needs, she says.

A key to success for this program is the convenience factor: seniors can access it through many doors in their own community. "We expect that when this service reaches maturity over the next three years, a senior should be able to get involved through their doctor’s office, a community health centre, or other convenient spots that are within easy reach," adds Brian Brophy, President of the Frontenac-Kingston Council on Aging, which participated in developing the program concept. "In the two seniors’ forums that we held in the fall, seniors told us that easy local access to the SMILE program in all communities in the south east would be important to its success," he adds.

VON will administer $9.7M program in region

The South East LHIN Board of Directors also approved the Victorian Order of Nurses as the program administrator. "We are very fortunate in the South East to have a network of terrific home-support care agencies and services. The Victorian Order of Nurses showed that it has the administrative know-how and capabilities, as well as the infrastructure, to support rollout across the region. The VON has demonstrated a true understanding of the philosophy and principles underpinning the program that is necessary to make this work," adds Ms. Thompson.

The VON applied for and was selected by the Board as regional management centre following a call for expressions of interest.

The South East Local Health Integration Network is committed to improving access to care for seniors living at home, adds Ms. Thompson. "We can and must do better for our seniors who are living at home. The benefits of SMILE will extend to their families and actually to everyone in the South East. Seniors who live at home and receive the services and supports that they need are preserving their own independence and dignity, rather than seeking admission to hospital or long-term care homes before they truly need it. This helps to ensure that hospitals and long-term care homes are available for those who truly need them."

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Media contact

Jacqueline Prospero

South East Local Health Integration Network

613 967-0196 #220


Quick Facts about SMILE

  • SMILE stands for Seniors Managing Independent Living Easily
  • Concept is based on what seniors said that they wanted at two seniors forums held in the South East region in fall 2007, co-sponsored with Frontenac-Kingston Council on Aging: equal access to the same services throughout the region
  • Investment is $17.4 million over three years
  • SMILE is developed based on mandate of Ontario’s $700 million Aging at Home Strategy, announced in 2007
  • SMILE is unique in Ontario in funding both traditional and non-traditional home supports
  • SMILE puts the decision for both the type of service and the best delivery of that service in seniors’ own hands
  • SMILE makes it easier to access services and remain independent
  • SMILE draws on best practices from current self-management programs now available to some persons with disabilities, families who have children with special need, and Canadian veterans
  • SMILE addresses needs for support at home with activities that can lead to premature institutionalization when they become too much for people to handle
  • SMILE rounds up a series of recent initiatives (EASIER + and "Everybody Gets It") in the South East targeted at an older population and designed to stave off a decline in their functional ability so they can remain at home


Quick Facts about the South East Local Health Integration Network

  • The South East Local Health Integration Network is one of 14 "LHIN" agencies put in place by the Province in 2006.
  • Each LHIN is mandated to provide planning, integration, and funding for designated health care service providers in its region -- with the goal of putting the patient first.
  • LHINs provide regional decision-making and accountability for health care services and of health care dollars.
  • The South East region extends along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River from Brighton through Trenton, Prince Edward County, Belleville, Kingston, Brockville, and Prescott to Cardinal; north to Merrickville, Perth, and Smith Falls, and over to Bancroft.
  • The South East region’s population of 480,000 is relatively small, and is spread across a large geographic area; about 80,000 of this population are seniors.
  • LHINs are responsible and accountable for the following sectors:

    • Community Care Access Centre (home care)
    • Mental health and addictions services
    • Long-term care homes
    • Community Health Centres
    • Community Support Services
    • Hospitals (Lennox & Addington Hospital; Quinte Health Care - 4 sites; Hotel Dieu; Providence Care; Kingston General Hospital; Perth-Smith Falls District Hospital; Brockville General Hospital).
  • This represents about 124 health care organizations in the South East region. 
  • The total budget managed by the South East LHIN in 2007-2008 is about $864 million.
  • The South East Local Health Integration Network’s Board Chair is Georgina Thompson, and the Vice-Chair is Florence Campbell. Other Board members are: John Ferguson, John Groves, Kenneth C. McBain, Gaye McGinn, Tom Rankin, and Margaret Werkhoven.
  • The public is invited and welcome to attend the Board’s monthly meetings.


Frequently Asked Questions

What changes have the LHINs introduced, and what does the LHIN mean by "integration"?

Each LHIN receives a fixed amount of funding to allocate to health care services and organizations in the region. This regionalization promotes more flexibility to address regional and local needs, and more accountability. Just as important, LHINs have a new, on-the-ground responsibility to support our health care providers working together to improve access to care by the people who need it. That’s the meaning behind the word "integration."

What are the priorities for change in the South East region?

Our current priorities include addressing barriers and improving access to care in areas such as: primary health care and specialist medical care; mental health and addiction services; providing more choices to seniors and elderly individuals who need longer-term services and care; rehabilitation services; French language services; transportation to care; e-health services; reducing wait times, and engagement with Aboriginal communities. Also, the South East Local Health Integration Network is working closely with our funded organizations to support them in meeting their obligations for financial management and accountability.

How were these priorities identified?

In 2006, community input was gathered from members of the public, health professionals, and health care organizations at community meetings across the South East region. That input forms the priorities in our Integrated Health Services Plan at

What are examples of integration efforts that promote better access to care?

Examples of integration projects in the South East region include:

Hospitals have designed a Regional Surgical Plan that could integrate surgical services across all hospital sites, reducing wait times. This will allow doctors and hospitals to better synchronize both physician and operating room availability across the region, providing faster access to care. The LHIN has secured funding for this plan and is waiting for hospitals to implement this breakthrough development.

The South East Local Health Integration Network supported and provided funding for a partnership of Quinte Health Care, Providence Care, Kingston General Hospital, Community Care Access Centre, and Community Support Services in a new approach to preventing the unnecessary hospitalization and institutionalization of seniors. EASIER+, a program to assess frail elderly individuals who go to the Emergency Department with medical problems and provide intensive short-term home care or community service supports. These services are initiated by the Community Care Access Centre and Community Support Services right from the Emergency Department. This approach will prevent unnecessary hospitalization, while ensuring that the person can return home confident that the right supports are in place. EASIER+ has started in Belleville and Kingston, and we expect to fan it out across the South East region.

The Aging at Home program ($17.4 million over three years) was approved by the SE LHIN Board on February 25. It will give seniors what they have told us they want: to be empowered to identify the care and supports that they need to live at home in comfort and safety. Seniors will be able to find or choose their own preferred home supports, networking with both existing and non-traditional care and support providers.