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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Building bridges: A CAMH nurse supports her client’s transition to the community

May 10, 2016 - When Rohan completed inpatient treatment at CAMH late last year, he found a new home and supportive services at Regeneration House in Toronto.  CAMH Registered Practical Nurse Verone Allen was there to ensure a smooth transition for Rohan, who has set goals to manage his schizophrenia while living more independently in the community.

For Verone, making that happen meant understanding her client in a holistic way – a therapeutic relationship that is at the core of nursing at CAMH. As we continue to celebrate CAMH’s nurses during Nursing Week 2016, we’re sharing a short story that goes to the core of excellent care. 

CAMH client Rohan with RPN Verone AllenCAMH client Rohan with Registered Practical Nurse Verone Allen

In her role as a transition nurse for CAMH’s Integrated Rehabilitation Unit, “I can build bridges” between inpatient and outpatient care, says Verone.

When Rohan moved to Regeneration House in Toronto last December, Verone was there to provide important background information to the supportive housing staff about Rohan’s mental health status, and to be an ongoing support for Rohan as he settled into his new home. She helped him get more comfortable with basic necessities such as a Metropass and telephone – also a television so he could watch basketball and other favourite sports.

Her approach to helping clients involves “knowing the person first and the mental health condition next.” And to be a role model, not an authority figure, she says.

She was there for him

Verone was there for Rohan when his anxiety peaked in new situations such as a medical appointment.

“She helped me with my panic,” says Rohan. “She knew exactly when my hospital appointment was and she came right at 10 a.m.. She always comes when she says she’s going to come.”

A critical area requiring support involves Rohan’s medication, Verone notes. “Medication plays an essential role to relieve his symptoms. At the same time, a side effect is drowsiness. We strategized ways to find good times each day where he is not sleepy and can be socially active. I can help him see the reasons behind decisions for his treatment. We can also work with his physician to make small adjustments to his medication.”

Today, Verone continues to be there for Rohan every step of the way.

They typically see or speak to each other twice a week – once when Verone visits Regeneration House, and once when Rohan drops by CAMH. When asked about his weekly visits to CAMH, Rohan smiles. He says he likes to visit the staff who helped him while he was in inpatient care, and some friends he has made here -- “I visit and say hi!” Rohan also visits his CAMH physician monthly.

Feeling safe

“Many of our clients say they feel safe at the CAMH site; that’s why they continue to visit,” says Verone. “We want to ensure they feel safe here and in the community. Sometimes that means advocating for clients, as well as fighting stigma, in the community.”

“I can always talk to Verone when I feel I have a problem,” says Rohan. “She is a good and kind person.”

Staying healthy, avoiding relapse

Rohan says his main goal for each day is “not to relapse.”  He says he has his eye on five steps to help meet that goal:

  • Exercise – a former rugby and cricket player in his native Sri Lanka, 56-year-old Rohan tries to work out at gym two days each week.
  • Food for thought – Rohan follows sports and politics, and likes to write about his ideas in a series of personal books
  • Food for health – he aims to have a balanced diet for his physical and mental health
  • Medication – Rohan knows he must stay on his medication, which has prevented serious relapses of his schizophrenia symptoms. He first experienced symptoms while studying accounting as a young man in Sri Lanka. He subsequently moved to England in 1979 and to Canada in 1991. His mother also lives in Canada.
  • Meditation – finding peaceful moments each day and getting eight hours of sleep each night.

Rohan notes that he recently read a story about a man in Japan who lived to 140.  “I am not half way there, yet,” he laughs. But he hopes to stay healthy for many years to come, he says.

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