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Eva Gelbman lived through some of the most horrific experiences of the 20th Century. She fled Hungary in 1957 with her brother escaping the Russian Revolution. A decade and a half prior to that she lost her parents and four of her five siblings at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

When she came to Canada, she hoped that one day they would somehow find one another, but they never did. You can see she is still haunted by her past, tears filling her eyes while she speaks of her lost family.

Life went on and she got married and had children, then grandchildren. Now 95 and living largely independently in the basement of her daughter’s home, she is still vibrant with a smile that never seems to leave her face. She talks about the family that is with her in Canada and how much she kisses them.

Carefor PSW, Marica, stands beside her with her hand reassuringly on Eva’s back while she tells her story. Eva speaks of Marica as an angel and says that the only thing that makes her sad is that when she dies, she will not be able to see Marica because Marica will be in Heaven, while she will be in Hell. Marica reassures her that that won’t be the case and that they will be together forever.

Marica visits Eva every day for one hour helping her with bathing, personal care and dressing. “I’m here to get her going in the morning,” says Marica. However, can you see by the way they interact that the real benefit of her being there is the connection they have. “She is like a member of my family,” says Eva holding Marica’s hand. “I love her,” she says with such tremendous sincerity.

And you can see how much Eva not only means to Marica, but also what her role as a PSW means to her. Marica understands the importance of the work they do. “When somebody thanks you from their heart, that is what we live for,” she says. “That is our work, but it’s much much more than work.” What Marica brings Eva is help with her day to day, but you can see how much she helps her with things that happened to Eva years ago. Every one of the people Carefor staff supports has a story and many have lived long and often complicated lives. The time PSWs spend with their clients and the caring they provide does so much to help heal wounds from the past and replace them with happiness today.

When we think of a retirement home, we often think of it being a home for what it suggests: people who are retired. But that’s not the case for everyone.

Melanie Freeman moved into the Carefor Civic Complex at 50, and while it took her a bit of time getting used to it, has found the feeling of home that she didn’t think she would reclaim following the death of mother.

As is the case for many people in Pembroke, the Civic Complex played a role in Melanie’s life. Formerly the Civic Hospital, Melanie was born there on November 17, 1971, as she proudly states, having an incredible memory for dates. She likely couldn’t have seen that in her 50th year that Civic would become her home.

But life has a tendency to change and on August 23rd, 2022, Melanie’s mother passed away.

Ten years prior, she had suffered an aneurysm which meant Melanie became her mom’s primary caregiver. She remembers the night she ended up back in the hospital after a fall: “The ambulance came and picked my mom up in their yellow gowns and their blue gloves and their face shield things, too. It was pretty scary for me.” 

After her mom’s passing, she moved in with her brother, but her doctor told her that wasn’t a permanent option for her and recommended Carefor Civic Complex.

At first Melanie was taken aback by the idea. She initially responded “I can’t do that… It’s supposed to be for seniors and I’m only 50”. Still, the doctor told her that wasn’t an issue, and she should at least look into it. Melanie says that when taking a tour of the complex she liked what she saw, and she did end up moving in. It was October 19th, 2022.

When she moved in, staff helped her with her emotions following the passing of her mother. “They told me to go to the cemetery a lot and to bring a dime,” Melanie says. “They said the dime would protect me.”  20 months later she’s a very familiar face to all the residents and staff at Civic, participating in mostly all the activities and regularly lending a hand to staff, “I’ve always been a helper,” she says. “It just makes me feel special.”

Last September, Melanie put her helping spirit into action as she participated in The Grand Parade to help raise essential funds for our retirement homes in Pembroke. She rallied a team around her of her brother, sister-in-law, nephew, dad and his girlfriend. Together they raised $575 for upgrades to Civic to help make life more comfortable for her fellow residents.

Her efforts even caught the attention of Pembroke City Councillor, Ed Jacyno, who spoke about Melanie’s efforts at a City Council meeting following the event.

Today life goes on and Melanie feels at home at Civic knowing she has a group of friends she can help and staff to make sure she’s doing okay.

To learn more about The Grand Parade taking place in Pembroke on September 21 visit our page. And to learn more about our retirement homes in Renfrew County and how they can help you or a loved one live with comfort and peace of mind, visit our website.

Joan and Bob have known each other for 75 years. They met as five-year-olds growing up next door to one another. “I married the girl next door,” says Bob was a smile. Now, on the verge of their 80th birthdays, they will be celebrating this milestone together in the fall. The challenge used to be whether or not Joan would be able to attend the party. Now there’s no question. She’ll be there.

Joan lives with Parkinson’s disease and bi-polar disorder, and so too does her family. Like many diseases, they affect more than just the person suffering from them.

Parkinson’s causes a deterioration of one’s physical ability over time, many common activities more challenging. Barriers to previously accessibility activities becomes greater as the body’s mobility lessens. The client becomes more isolated and so does the family as it becomes easier to just stay home.

We often take our mobility for granted. A trip to visit friends or a concert requires a little planning but not much more. But as the body weakens so too can the mind. We all saw what feeling trapped in our homes did to us through the pandemic. Imagine if this was your every day.

But Joan’s husband, Bob, never gave up hope. Joan qualified for the High Intensity Supports at Home (HISH) program which provided her with personal support services three times a day. But when they really saw a difference was when Carefor physiotherapist Thu Roan brought PWR!Moves to their home.

PWR!Moves is short for Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery and is a higher intensity exercise program which leads participants through a series of movements which mimic the types of movements one might do regularly in their lives. Reaching up, to side, bending, leaning movements are all exaggerated to be able to help the brain draw connections that become lost with Parkinson’s. Through repetition, the body starts to reconnect with the brain and maintain ways of moving that might otherwise be lost.

Before PWR!Moves, Joan’s daughter, Paula, said she was “was unresponsive, not engaging, hardly moving.” The talk around Joan moving into a retirement home was becoming more real. “Six years ago, we were looking at her going into a home. She was going like this,” says Bob, his forearm angling downward. “Now there’s no way” he says with confidence. “People talk about the change in Joanie. They can’t believe it.”

“Everyone mentions the last 6 months, they’re aghast at the improvement,” says Bob. “She’s perky. A different person. It’s made a huge change in our lives because it makes it happier.”

You can see the energy in the family. There’s hope. Not too long Joan’s condition had them isolated and now they’re out in the community together. “We thought, now that she can stand on her own, where can we go?” remembers Bob. The first place was to church. “[Joan] was looking around at who she wanted to talk to. You’re too isolated in the home. Now you’re out in the community. You go from house to community. It’s a massive change.”

Carefor offers physiotherapy as part of our home care services to people living in Ottawa. To find our more about our physiotherapy and home care services, please visit our website.

Often when someone falls ill with a disease it doesn’t just impact them, it affects the whole family. With a dementia diagnosis this can be even more so due to the care required by loved ones to support someone living with dementia as their ability to care for themselves diminishes as the disease progresses.

For Eric Booth and his sister, their priority was to help their mother, Norma, live as independently as possible as long as possible. For 12 years, Norma lived on her own with dementia. As Eric will admit, it wasn’t easy but nothing important ever really is. “Dementia doesn’t stop someone from living on their own,” says Eric, “but you have to adapt to see if they’re able to live on their own.”

The family understood the value of her mother maintaining her independence throughout her dementia journey so worked diligently and creatively to adapt to her circumstances. ”As they change you as a caregiver have to react as well,” says Eric. What this looked like changed over time and included things such as installing cameras to monitor her safety, delivering meals to avoid her having to cook and laying out medicines for her every day.

Eric points out the importance of remembering the person: “You have to treat them like they’re still there,” he says. “Keeping her involved in the process made things easier…Trying to force things on someone living with dementia isn’t going to make them happy, which isn’t going to make you happy.”

Eventually, the risk of Norma living alone outweighed the benefit and they had to consider a retirement home for her. The trouble was that while she had a plan for her financial and health needs, she didn’t have anything articulated about the type of retirement home she wanted to live in, leaving Eric and his sister to discuss what they felt was the right environment for their mom.

With each having their own version of the ideal home for her they debated about the importance of room size vs. common spaces, cost vs. quality of care and the hundreds of other things to consider. Fortunately for them they found Richmond Care Home which ticked most of their boxes in terms of quality of care, affordable all-inclusive pricing, being an exclusive dementia care retirement home and being easily accessible.

Also, the fact that it was located close to Eric in Richmond, Ontario just 15 minutes from Kanata and 30 minutes from Ottawa, meant they could see her whenever they wanted.  Often for people caring for those living with dementia it can be a challenge to find a home for their loved one that offers them the same level of care they gave. One of the benefits of Richmond Care Home is that it’s a retirement home exclusively for women living with dementia that feels like a home.

What’s more, by the fact that it’s run by Carefor, a not for profit, the cost is much lower than other comparable memory care retirement homes.

For more information about Richmond Care Home visit our website.

Two hands sit submerged in a bucket of silicone, fingers clasped together, forming a symbol of love enduring the way only love can. The hands belong to 62-year-old Violet Mitchell and her husband Todd. In March of 2023, Violet was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. Over the course of the last year, the cancer has advanced to stage four and spread to her spine and brain.

Knowing that they don’t have much time left together, Violet and Todd decided to create a mold of them holding hands, a tangible symbol of the love they have for each other. Todd plans to keep it so, “I’ll always have something to remember her,” he says. This is the second one they have done. The first one Todd plans on giving to their daughter whose sister passed away at Carefor Hospice Cornwall eight years ago.

Since her diagnosis, Violet has been receiving support in the community from Carefor Hospice Cornwall. Violet also attends Hospice’s day program once a week where together with 10 – 12 other people she plays games, does crafts and participates in community outings. But more than anything for Violet it’s the chance to connect with people going through something similar.

“It offers you a feeling,” says Violet, “I can see what [the disease] is doing to me. I can see what it’s doing to them.” Violet suggests that this allows her to see different perspectives of what experiencing hospice is like: “We talk about how long we have left. I go home and think maybe I have it better than some people. Maybe worse than some.”

Todd also participates in a caregivers’ support group at the Hospice, where caregivers and family members are able to connect with the support of the Hospice staff around the emotions and struggles of caring for a loved one nearing the end of their journey.

Often when people think of Hospice, they think of the building and the care provided within. In response to the pandemic where Carefor Hospice wasn’t able to provide services in the building for our community clients, community programs were enhanced to fill a need for palliative care in people’s homes. “We just continued to offer these services after the pandemic,’ says Hospice Manager, Angela Labelle. “It allows us to reach far more people and families in the community than we were prior to the pandemic.”

Knowing that Violet’s journey may be nearing its end, Violet and Todd continue to set short-term goals for themselves in order to make the absolute most of the time they have left. These goals include the intimate experiencing of renewing their vows at Niagara Falls, and the exciting opportunity to see the upcoming total solar eclipse together. Todd says the journey has been tough, making it important to live life to the fullest. Or, as he stated, “you never know, so live every day.”

Carefor Hospice Cornwall’s services are available to people like Violet and Todd thanks in large part to donor support. It with through the help of donations that we have been able to pivot to create the Community Palliative Care program and to help dozens of more people each year. To contribute, please visit the Carefor website and to join our upcoming Hike for Hospice, please find more information here

Within Canada, many seniors are feeling the impact of being socially isolated as they continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic from home. However, some seniors receiving homecare services are fortunate enough to have PSWs break up the solitude while receiving the essential care they need to remain home.

Albert Duffy has been receiving homecare and PSW support from Carefor for over a year now after a vehicle accident made it challenging for him to care of his wife, Janine. Albert (92) and Janine (89) are doing everything they can to remain happy and healthy at home. However, with COVID-19 limiting their outings, the couple relies on PSWs and close family to fill the gaps.

Diane Villeneuve, a Carefor PSW helps make staying home possible by providing essential care to Albert twice a week and being a friendly ear. With her vibrant personality, it is safe to say the couple looks forward to her visits and it gives Albert a much-needed break. “I do my best professional healthcare with Albert, and then I do light housekeeping and it makes them smile.” says Diane. She also makes a point of having chats with Albert to keep his mind active. “They become like family. Although we cannot share anything personal, we are good listeners. Mental health is so important especially when you need to stay home.” says Diane.

Above all else, Albert can’t wait for the day social distancing restrictions are lifted. “It’s the freedom. We usually go for a car ride on the weekends. It’s nice to go for a walk in the street but I can’t be six feet away from my wife as she has a walker.” Albert says. Until then, Albert and Janine will continue to stay safe at home, keeping updated on the pandemic by watching the news.

Before leaving the Duffy’s to make her way to another client, Diane makes it a point of leaving the couple with smiles on their faces. “It’s my goal to see they’re happy, continuing their routine and living in their home.” says Diane.

Help seniors receive the homecare they need so they too can stay safe in their homes. Donate today by clicking here.

Interested in becoming a Carefor Hero like Diane?  Apply today.

John & Danielle’s Story

A dementia diagnosis is surreal. Traumatic. It changes the life of an individual and their loved ones in an instant. But in reality, life changed long before the diagnosis.

Oftentimes, people living with Young Onset Dementia, which affects individuals under the age of 65, had the disease years before they realized it was even in the realm of possibility.

This was the case for John Marcuccio. Before his diagnosis, John had built a 30-year career at the Canada Revenue Agency, and dedicated his leisure time to playing and coaching soccer. It was in his late 50s when he noticed changes to his memory, and soon after his wife, Danielle Barrette-Marcuccio, noticed personality changes. They reached out several times to a doctor in hopes of understanding what was going on, but with no luck. John ended up going on stress leave, but dementia never crossed anybody’s mind.

“The biggest challenge was getting a diagnosis,” Danielle says. “You know there is something wrong, you just don’t know what it is.”

In 2015, when John was 61 years old, a vacation in Cuba changed the course of their lives. A family friend who worked with dementia patients noticed signs and encouraged John to see request a short-term memory test and brain scan from his GP. When the results came in, he was referred to the Memory Disorder Clinic. Shortly after, it was then that the couple had first encountered dementia. But not just any type of dementia – Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD).

FTD is the most common dementia that affects individuals under the age of 60. The disease targets the frontal and temporal areas of the brain, causing a sudden onset of memory loss, behaviour changes, or difficulties with speech and movement. The neurologist suspected that John’s frontal lobe had likely started shrinking a decade before the diagnosis.

Undoubtedly, a dementia diagnosis is overwhelming for not only the individual, but also for their loved ones. For many, the disease affects them during their biggest income earnings years, and a time when they are putting their kids in college, paying off their mortgage, and essentially earning a living.

At the time, John understood the implications of FTD, but remained hopeful that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. Although there is no known cure, Danielle felt a sense of powerlessness on how little effort is spent on researching and raising awareness about dementia, even less so on FTD.

Raising awareness

In an effort to incite change, Danielle devotes countless hours in better understanding the disease, supporting carepartners, and advocating for a better future.

“It’s a difficult journey; it’s not for the faint of heart. There’s so much to deal with and it can be overwhelming. People don’t know where to start,” she says. “For me, it’s empowering to do the research, to feel connected and better understand. It’s my coping mechanism.”

One of her hopes in raising awareness is to prevent people from being misdiagnosed: “Some people with FTD are diagnosed with a psychiatric illness instead, and are put on all sorts of unnecessary drugs. There have been cases where people got fired or laid off because they can’t do their job.”

Finding meaning through Carefor

Danielle remains positive and finds ways to bring joy to both her and her husband’s life. One of the ways they keep smiling is through the Carefor Carling Adult Day ProgramJohn at the Carefor Carling Adult Day Program.

John joined the program more than two years ago, and Danielle is grateful for Carefor’s support. Not only has it eased the strain of being a full-time caregiver, it has created a space for John to build friendships and stay connected.

While COVID-19 has forced our programs to move virtually, keeping our clients safe and healthy at home is top of mind. In the meantime, John enjoys smiling at adorable babies, animals, and going for walks. At the end of the day, it’s the little things that matter the most.

“This isn’t the end,” Danielle says. “For now, it’s important to focus on living with dementia and what we do together to enjoy life as it is. We might have to make adjustments continuously, but there are always things you can do to make every day memorable and enjoyable.”

Additional resources

Dementia is rising exponentially in Canada. As of today, more than half a million Canadians are living with dementia, and new cases diagnosed every year is expected to increase by 66 per cent.

Learn more about World FTD Awareness Week (Sept 28 to Oct 4). You can attend an all-day seminar on October 3, 10-4 EST (Select U.S. Presentation).

Danielle’s Facebook support groups for caregivers and those living with dementia:

Ottawa’s Young Onset Dementia group

Across Canada – Canadians Living with FTD

To support Carefor’s programs for people living with dementia please, consider donating at carefor.ca/donate.

While our Adult Day Programs for people living with dementia are suspended during the COVID-19 lockdown, staff and clients are finding ways to connect with one another virtually.

Four days a week, at various times throughout the day, clients at Carefor’s Perley Adult Day Program, like Alison Montpetit’s husband Vital, are still getting their daily dose of recreational programming.  Day Program Staff are leading clients through a variety of activities such as: exercise, group discussions, music and singalongs, trivia and word games. Our goal is to keep our clients engaged and connected while remaining safe.

“We miss (the clients), just like they miss our program; so to know we can still reach out and make them feel good means the world to me,” Day Program staff Laura Stack says.

The Perley Adult Day Program, which benefits from the generous support of donors to subsidize program costs, offers a tremendous break for carepartners.

“We know how much our carepartners rely on this and how good this is for our clients to be engaged with others, especially during this time of isolation,” Laura says. “It’s been great to see everyone smiling and actively participating in our virtual day program.”

Alison admits that she didn’t realize how much she was counting on Carefor to provide stimulation for her husband.

“It’s hard to take care of yourself and provide the care you need to do all by yourself,” Alison says. “Carefor has become my world – my lifeline.”

She’s grateful that the program has reached out to offer support during this time of crisis: “The virtual programs are designed to match his ability … and [my husband] enjoys that sense of familiarity.”

While our Perley Day Program has nearly 60 active clients, our day programs support more than 400 people living with dementia.

To learn more about the Perley-Rideau Adult Day Program, click here or email us at info@carefor.ca. Our Adult Day Programs rely heavily on fundraised dollars. Support our Carefor Heroes by giving at carefor.ca/donate.

Family means everything, and it’s hard to put into words just how much our loved ones mean to us. They are the support systems we rely on, the shoulder we can cry on, and the ones who know us best. For families whose loved ones live in one of two Carefor residential care homes in Pembroke, staying connected has never been more important.

Mental health in seniors has been a hot topic since the onset of the pandemic, and for good reason. Seniors, especially ones who live in retirement residences, continue to struggle in finding safe ways to engage in recreational activities. Largely, it has been their immediate family members who provide them comfort and relief during these uncertain times.

That said, the road to connection hasn’t always been easy for many families, many of whom don’t have the means to stay connected with their loved ones from a distance. For that reason, Program Manager Steve Fortin made it his mission for both residential care homes in Pembroke to be equipped with a handful of secure tablets.

Carefor’s partnership with Aetonix Systems Inc., using their Aetonix aTouchAway platform has allowed residents and their families to connect, while ensuring the safety and security of their health information.

“We could see our residents feeling lonely, and we wanted to leverage safe and secure systems so that if residents and families want to connect, they have that option,” Steve said.

He says the reaction from residents and their families has been extraordinary: “We noticed how the mood has changed. They are much happier now that they’re in regular contact with their family. Some used to chat with their families only a few times a year, and now it’s a few times a week. That means a lot.”

Not only has COVID-19 allowed us to leverage technology to connect more often than before, but it has also put into perspective the value of being close with our loved ones and the importance of local support systems.

One resident’s family member commented: “The past year has been very hard, I’ve learned not to take any of these relationships for granted anymore. It’s easy for a care home to say they are caring during these times, but to see that a loved one is actually being healthy and cared for, it means the world.”

Support our programs and services for a better today and tomorrow for local seniors in your community by visiting carefor.ca/donate.

As the baby boomers age, the need for community support services is expected to grow over the next thirty years. An area of care expected to see substantial increase in need is programs and services that support older adults living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, plus additional supports for their caregivers.

In Canada alone, over half a million people are living with dementia today. While women make up the majority of those diagnosed of these people, men still account for over 38%.  As the baby boomers age, the need for community support services is expected to grow over the next thirty years. An area of care expected to see substantial increase in need is programs and services that support older adults living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, plus additional supports for their caregivers. In Canada alone, over half a million people are living with dementia today. While women make up the majority of those diagnosed of these people, men still account for over 38%.

The Carefor North-Stor Support Centre has been a hub of activity with its Adult Day Program (ADP) for over six years, supporting older adults with cognitive and physical challenges and offering a reprieve for their caregivers. The goal for ADP is to enhance each individual’s own strengths and abilities through social, emotional and physical support. Over the past two years the number of men needing ADP support has grown. It was decided in September 2022 to start a men’s specific ADP group that would tailor its programming to meet the needs of men.

Natacha, the ADP Coordinator encourages the group to do exercises to keep fit.Every Thursday, the new men’s club gets together spending their time-sharing stories with one another, staying active, and engaging in planned activities. Johnny has been part of the Carefor ADP Program for over five years and is known as the jokester of the group. He shared, “It lets you get out of your house. It’s nice to socialize and do games. I enjoy visiting with others in the group.”

Gail, Johnny’s wife and caregiver, takes the opportunity relax, put her feet up and indulge in some of her favourite tv shows knowing Johnny is in good hands. Gail explained, “It gives me a reprieve, but it also gives me a wonderful satisfaction knowing Johnny has his own group of social friends, and that he gets the exercise and a good meal. At the end of the day, he has those interests to bring home. We are very insular people, so I like for him to get out and have his own social time.”

In 2020, there were over 350,000 caregivers in Canada supporting partners living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. This number is expected to increase by 188% in the next 30 years. Programs like Carefor’s Adult Day Program are foundational in supporting caregivers and giving them the care they need themselves to better care for their loved one. Carefor is grateful to its donors and community partners for supporting our place in the future of healthcare.

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