A picture is worth a thousand words

June 17, 2020

Everyone knows the delight in receiving a handwritten card. It’s a simple gesture that can instantly brighten your day. With many people, especially seniors, experiencing the negative side-effects of self-isolation during COVID-19, it has become more important than ever to find ways of reaching out and connecting.

Cards of Compassion is a North York General Hospital (NYGH) Patient- and Family-Centred Care initiative to help alleviate loneliness associated with the current social distancing measures in place. 

Hospitals and long-term care homes, including NYGH and our Seniors’ Health Centre, have had to suspend in-person visits from loved ones. In response, many NYGH staff, physicians, learners and volunteers have looked for ways to show kindness and help patients and residents get through COVID-19. This includes Shana Haberman, North York General’s Patient- and Family-Centred Care Consultant, who came up with the idea for Cards of Compassion at her kitchen table with her family. 

“The reality of COVID-19 hit pretty hard, and I remember feeling concerned about how to keep my three kids occupied without school,” says Shana. “At the same time, I was worried for all the patients and residents at North York General who were suddenly cut off from visiting family and friends.”

In her role, Shana works closely with the hospital’s 43 Patient and Family Advisors to ensure their perspective is embedded in care delivery. She was already familiar with some of the research on the impact of social isolation and the role of family and friends in caring for elderly and sick patients. The presence of loved ones can be an effective tool for improving patient outcomes, communication and satisfaction, and reducing costs. Family support is critical during a patient’s physical recovery.

“I asked my three children to create the first set of drawings and messages as a sample of the activity for others to follow,” says Shana. “My hope was that these cards would provide seniors and patients with a window to the outside and give them a view filled with hope.”

It didn’t take long at all for the idea to catch on. In fact, not only did Shana receive pictures from the children of staff, physicians, learners and volunteers, but word spread quickly through the community and over social media. Over five weeks, North York General received more than 400 cards drawn by children. 

“While presenting the children’s art to our residents, each person had the opportunity to hand select the drawing that spoke to them,” says Lauren Simpson, Coordinator of Resident Activation. “The loving touch of a small child’s drawing, the inspirational message that was included in the artwork, and the kindness that came from the project itself touched the residents’ hearts in so many ways.”

NYGH has received many touching and encouraging messages from the community in the form of signs, cards and social media posts. These messages, including Cards of Compassion, have been a source of inspiration for staff, physicians, learners and volunteers and are on display in the lobby of the General site for everyone to enjoy.  

From our Residents at Seniors’ Health Centre:

“Thank you to all the kids who took the time to show us their talents and to show us that they care and are thinking of us. We want them to know how much we appreciate it”.

“It’s simply terrific that the kids took the time to do this for us. These drawings bring a tear of happiness to my eyes. They’re amazing!”

“These drawings are simply precious!”

“Simply terrific!”

“So much effort and thought went into each picture. They certainly brought a smile to my face and I’m going to hang it up in my room.”