Family CARE Grants Fund Smaller Items at Hospital with Big Patient Benefits

Published Monday, March 30, 2020

Family CARE Grants Fund Smaller Items at Hospital with Big Patient Benefits

Matthew Shonosky (centre), Manager of the HELP program, showing samples of the Alzheimer's/Dementia activity items funded by a Family CARE grant, alongside Shirley Wragg (L), Vice President of the Volunteer Association and Barry Streib (R), Secretary and Chair, Governance for the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation

For the 11th year, staff at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre applied for small grants for the small things they know can make a big difference to patient care. These are called Family CARE (Care Advancements Recommended by Employees) Grants.

The funds for the grants are provided by donors to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation along with the Volunteer Association to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. This year, close to $64,000 was provided to fund 31 Family CARE Grants.   

Barry Streib, Secretary and Chair, Governance for the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation and Shirley Wragg, Vice-President of the Volunteer Association, announced the grants on March 9th.

“Each year we are inspired by what employees have suggested to better care for their patients and work with the grant committee to provide funding to as many areas of the Health Sciences Centre as possible,” said Streib. Added Wragg, “We saw some really practical applications this year, for items that are going to make a genuine difference for patients,”

The 31 Family CARE grants, ranging from $90 to $5,000, will benefit patients across the Health Sciences Centre in 2020, thanks to the 2019 grants.

Some of the items making a difference include:

  • Boogie board LCD writing tablets for Rehab Services to help occupational and physical therapy patients communicate and strengthen fine motor skills
  • A tipi to provide a cultural space at the hospital to perform Indigenous ceremonies, gatherings, teachings and storytelling
  • An interactive flat panel device for Child and Adolescent Mental Health to provide visual and interactive learning for patients who attend education classes each weekday morning.
  • Additional musical instruments (guitar and percussion instruments) for patients in Adult Mental Health to play and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of music
  • Additional Vac-pacs to help position a patient for surgery. When soft, it is molded around the patient then when the air is removed it becomes firm, keeping the patient securely in position
  • A larger probe for a fetal Doppler to read fetal heartbeats quicker and more effectively, avoiding anxiety and upset for the pregnant woman
  • Fall mats with sensors to be placed under the chairs, wheelchairs or beds of patients who are vulnerable to falls to alert staff should a patient try to stand up unassisted.

One of the funded grants that stood out to the grant committee was equipment for the Adult Mental Health Department’s kitchen. Manager Joelle Macey explained. “Our Therapeutic Recreation staff Donna Ross guides a program that teaches patients about nutrition, how to cook, bake and preserve food. Patients learn valuable life skills like shopping for food, comparing costs and planning and organizing for meals. They also benefit from the distraction of focusing on chopping, stirring and other tasks which also brings people back into the moment. This is also a healthy practice called mindfulness.”

Another was the request for activity blankets and pillows for the hospital’s Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) program. Manager of 2A/HELP, Matthew Shonosky, explained. “These blankets and pillows are for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. As these diseases progress, behaviors develop in these patients like fidgeting and grabbing things to occupy themselves including, sometimes, their IVs or medical tubing which is stressful for nursing staff. The benefit of the blankets and pillows, which have pockets, buttons, laces and Velcro, is they keep these patients stimulated for hours which helps them stay calm and relaxed.”

A full list of all 2019 grants can be found online at


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