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Hospital initiative gives family place in care team

A new initiative that encourages patients’ whānau and friends to assist in their hospital care is thriving at MidCentral DHB, with seven wards running the programme.

Mahi Tahi - Better Together was introduced at Palmerston North Hospital’s Ward 26 late 2018 as a pilot designed to offer a people-centred, whanau-inclusive approach that acknowledges the important role loved ones play in a person’s healthcare journey.

Whānau or friends are able to become a Kaimanaaki (Partner in Care), which enables them to play a prominent role in the care of their loved one while they are in hospital.

Kaimanaaki partner with hospital staff and undertake any tasks they wish to help with, including dressing, assisting with eating, providing company and helping their loved one go for walks. They can visit at any time and stay overnight if required. Mahi Tahi started in the medical ward 26 and surgical ward 29, and is now in oncology ward 23, orthopaedics ward 24, surgical ward 27, OPAL and MAPU, and will soon be in the Star 1 and Star 2 wards.

MidCentral DHB Associate Director of Nursing, Acute and Elective Specialist Services, Jan Dewar, said Mahi Tahi had drawn positive feedback from staff, patients and whānau.

Ms Dewar said Mahi Tahi was one aspect of putting the theme of partnership into action, which was a key aspect of the DHB’s strategy.

“The Mahi Tahi programme further enables and encourages staff to include whānau as partners and members of the patient care team. For patients who may be confused or disorientated, the ability to have whānau or familiar faces involved in the care provides comfort and support to people while they are in hospital and helps greatly with the transition out of hospital.”

MidCentral DHB Pae Ora Paiaka Whaiora Māori Operations Executive Wayne Blissett said the development of Mahi Tahi had supported a whānau-inclusive approach to caring and participating in a loved one’s health journey.

“For Pae Ora Paiaka Whaiora it has provided the opportunity to embrace Māori values of manaaki, aroha and whānau into the hospital as values that resonate with many families and loved ones, not just Māori,” he said.

“Being able to share the strengths of our culture with everyone signals a new commitment to supporting whānau and families to be active contributors in their loved one’s health journey. We know many families and whānau want to be with their loved one during inpatient stays and Mahi Tahi provides a structured and supportive framework for families and whānau to participate at a level with which they are comfortable and confident with.

“The beautiful thing about Mahi Tahi is that the whānau can decide to what level they want to participate in the care. If whānau aren’t able or don’t want to participate, that’s good, too. What’s most important is that whānau and families have choice.”

For Kaimanaaki Felicity Yates, who took part in her 88-year-old mother Maud Hammond-Yates’ care while in hospital, the experience was empowering and life-changing.

Ms Hammond-Yates suffers from dementia and Ms Yates is her full-time carer at home.

“I think Mahi Tahi meant a great deal to my mum as it meant I could be there for such long hours over the day,” Ms Yates said. “It seems to me to be a very good initiative to keep that continuity in her life rather than for her to be just “visited” by me or my sister.”

The positive experience was reflected in her mother’s cheerful mood and ability to build relationships with medical staff, and Ms Yates has learned some better coping strategies for at-home care.

“I feel more safe in my caring role at home, by being on the ward and doing the practical care with the experts and by observing what they did, I’ve learnt so much about what to do.

“The issue of her not sleeping was really the absolute worst challenge we had in caring for her at home, and I think we were heading for the whole thing falling apart before we were admitted to hospital. This is where Mahi Tahi was so amazing – it meant that I could learn from the nurses and assistants and all that experience they have, and I so, so appreciated how generously everyone shared what they knew and their tips for managing her.

Implementing Mahi Tahi had been made easier due to generous donations from Noel Leeming, including a new fridge and microwave for Ward 26, and from the Milson Rotary Club, which gifted money to buy extra laziboy chairs for the programme.

For more information about Mahi Tahi, go to

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