We asked our clients, “What were the primary benefits of being a part of the Nav-CARE program?” Here’s what they said:

  • The program helped enable me to make good decisions for both now and the future
  • The program provided me with a surrogate safety net that was outside of the family
  • The program helped support an increased engagement with my life
  • The program made life more liveable in the presence of illness
  • The volunteers were: good listeners, caring, personable, outgoing, friendly, patient, positive, capable, conscientious, kind, non-intrusive, and diligent in finding out what they did not know

What do the volunteers think about the program?

  • Volunteers found the role satisfying and meaningful
  • Volunteers would do the role again and recommend it to others
  • Volunteers reported that continuing education and support were essential

How is Nav-CARE being evaluated?

Evaluation data is gathered from adults, families, volunteers, and other stakeholders. Evaluation of current sites will be complete by 2020. The potential contributions to Canadian healthcare are significant: older adults will have better quality of life, volunteers will have enhanced roles that build hospice capacity, and supportive care will be implemented early for those living with serious illness.

What are the biggest challenges?

Informing seniors in the community about the availability of the Nav-CARE service

Where are we now?

Nav-CARE is being adapted and tailored across diverse social and geographic contexts across Canada with volunteers primarily based within hospices who are connected to primary care services. The goal is to create a sustainable program that can be implemented widely in Canadian context.


Competency Document

Developing Navigation Competencies to Care for Older Rural Adults with Advanced Illness*


Navigators help rural older adults with advanced illness and their families connect to needed resources, information, and people to improve their quality of life. This article describes the process used to engage experts – in rural aging, rural palliative care, and navigation competencies for the care of this population. A discussion paper on the important considerations for navigation in this population was developed followed by a four-phased Delphi process with 30 expert panel members. Study results culminated in five general navigation competencies for health care providers caring for older rural persons and their families at end of life: provide patient/family screening; advocate for the patient/family; facilitate community connections; coordinate access to services and resources; and promote active engagement. Specific competencies were also developed. These competencies provide the foundation for research and curriculum development in navigation. 

Research Article

Volunteer navigation partnerships: Piloting a compassionate community approach to early palliative care


Background: A compassionate community approach to palliative care provides important rationale for building community-based hospice volunteer capacity. In this project, we piloted one such capacity-building model in which volunteers and a nurse partnered to provide navigation support beginning in the early palliative phase for adults living in community. The goal was to improve quality of life by developing independence, engagement, and community connections.
Methods: Volunteers received navigation training through a three-day workshop and then conducted in-home visits with clients living with advanced chronic illness over one year. A nurse navigator provided education and mentorship. Mixed method evaluation data was collected from clients, volunteer navigators, the nurse navigator, and other stakeholders.
Results: Seven volunteers were partnered with 18 clients. Over the one-year pilot, the volunteer navigators conducted visits in home or by phone every two to three weeks. Volunteers were skilled and resourceful in building connections and facilitating engagement. Although it took time to learn the navigator role, volunteers felt well-prepared and found the role satisfying and meaningful. Clients and family rated the service as highly important to their care because of how the volunteer helped to make the difficult experiences of aging and advanced chronic illness more livable. Significant benefits cited by clients were making good decisions for both now and in the future; having a surrogate social safety net; supporting engagement with life; and ultimately, transforming the experience of living with illness. Overall the program was perceived to be well-designed by stakeholders and meeting an important need in the community. Sustainability, however, was a concern expressed by both clients and volunteers.
Conclusions: Volunteers providing supportive navigation services during the early phase of palliative care is a feasible way to foster a compassionate community approach to care for an aging population. The program is now being implemented by hospice societies in diverse communities across Canada.
Keywords: Hospice and palliative care, Volunteers, Compassionate community, Navigation, Public health

Research Article

Nurse-led navigation to provide early palliative care in rural areas: a pilot study


Background: Few services are available to support rural older adults living at home with advancing chronic illness. The objective of this project was to pilot a nurse-led navigation service to provide early palliative support for rural older adults and their families living at home with advancing chronic illness.
Methods: Twenty-five older adults and 11 family members living with advancing chronic illness received bi-weekly home visits by a nurse navigator over a 2-year period. Navigation services included symptom management, education, advance care planning, advocacy, mobilization of resources, and psychosocial support. The nurse navigator collected longitudinal data on older adult and family needs, and older adult quality of life and healthcare utilization.
Results: Satisfaction with the service was high. There was no attrition over the 2-year period except through death, and few cancelled visits, indicating a high degree of acceptability of the intervention. The navigator addressed complex, multi-faceted needs through connecting health, social, and informal community resources. Participants who indicated a preferred place of death were able to die in that preferred place (n = 7). Emergency room use by participants was minimal and largely unpreventable by the nurse navigator. Longitudinal health-related quality of life scores for many participants were poor, lending further support to the need for more focused attention to this upstream palliative population.
Conclusions: Using a nurse navigator to facilitate early palliative care for rural older adults living with advanced chronic illness is a promising innovation for meeting the needs of this population. Further research is required to evaluate outcomes on a larger scale.
Keywords: Rural health services, Chronic disease, Palliative care, Patient navigation, Nursing, Palliative approach

Research Article

Development, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Curriculum to Prepare Volunteer Navigators to Support Older Persons Living With Serious Illness


The purpose of this article is to report the development, implementation, and evaluation of a curriculum designed to prepare volunteer navigators to support community-dwelling older persons with serious chronic illness. The role of the volunteer navigator was to facilitate independence and quality of life through building social connections, improving access to resources, and fostering engagement. A curriculum was constructed from evidence-based competencies, piloted and revised, and then implemented in 7 subsequent workshops. Workshop participants were 51 volunteers and health-care providers recruited through local hospice societies and health regions. Curriculum was evaluated through satisfaction and self-efficacy questionnaires completed at workshop conclusion. Post workshop evaluation indicated a high degree of satisfaction with the training. One workshop cohort of 7 participants was followed for 1 year to provide longitudinal evaluation data. Participants followed longitudinally reported improved self-efficacy over 12 months and some challenges with role transition. Future improvements will include further structured learning opportunities offered by telephone post workshop, focusing on advocacy, communication, and conflict management. Overall, volunteers were satisfied with the curriculum and reported good self-perceived efficacy in their new role as navigators.

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