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At various points in our lives we stop and reflect on possible alternatives. What if I took that job? What if I tried that business idea? It’s nearly impossible to imagine the million possible alternate paths our lives may have taken if we’d made different choices.

For Todd Sullivan, the alternative to moving into Carefor Civic Complex six years ago is quite clear: “I don’t think I’d be alive. I was going downhill pretty fast,” he says. It’s a startling statement, but when he describes his life prior to coming to Civic, you see how he might be correct in saying it. “I was living on my own,” he says. “I’d had a heart attack and I was going down in my apartment. I was lonely and hurting.” Todd Sullivan, Civic Complex Resident

Stories like this at the Carefor Civic Complex are not uncommon. While not everyone’s entry into Civic could be described as lifesaving, for many residents the alternative to Civic is one they’d rather not consider. Todd comments, “I see people come in here, they’re lost. They don’t know which way they’re going. Two months down the road they’re happy, they feel fulfilled. They have a good sense of family here.”

It’s that feeling of family that Todd keeps coming back to. As someone whom Carefor Recreation Coordinator Megan Shepheard describes saying, “(Todd) might as well work here”, Todd keeps busy with a variety of activities such as running the building’s tuck shop, volunteering as a bingo caller, fixing people’s watches and much more. Places like Civic aren’t for everyone, but for those who need community and feel disconnected living alone, it offers meaning and community.

The question becomes what happens to those who can’t live alone, or can afford no other alternative. As the most affordable retirement residence in the Ottawa Valley, the Civic Complex is an alternative to some who find themselves in dire straights. Megan recalls a resident who was originally in emergency housing because he was with community mental health and was supposed to be with Carefor for a couple months. But “it became his family,” says Megan. “And even once they found housing for him, he would spend all day on the property, and they found him sleeping in the smoke shack at night because Carefor was his family. We got in contact with his worker and brought him back to Carefor and said ‘he’s never going anywhere because this is the only family he knows.’”

As a not-for-profit, Carefor’s main focus isn’t about making money; it’s about ensuring those who need help get it. To this end, Carefor takes great strides to keep the cost of accommodation low for residents so that those need a place to live have a place to live. For some in the Ottawa Valley who can’t live on their own, the only option may be in hospital or long-term care. Civic and Mackay allow them to have more than just a safe place where they’re cared for, it also gives them something many might not otherwise have, a family. Admittedly in an effort to keep the cost of accommodation accessible to clients, there is a gap between revenues and the expense of running both facilities. This is where our community comes in as donations help Carefor bridge that gap.

Civic resident Lucien Leblond comments on the cost difference at Civic versus other retirement residences in  the region. “You can go to other places, but you’re going to pay a lot more money,” says Lucien. “Other places you pay at least $2,500. Here I pay $1,000 less. (Here) they keep your room clean. They do your washing. They do everything you need. I do nothing!” Lucien says with a laugh.

These stresses of aging are not often considered by people. The burden of what many of us deal with daily grows exponentially with age.  Chores and expenses can place a constant weight upon many elderly. As much as some want to be able to stay at home, many know they just can’t, and shouldn’t, which is why Civic provides a viable alternative for those who may have no other option. “I have everything here,” says Lucien. “Food, activities, friends. I don’t have to worry about anything.” What’s more says, Lucien, “Here you’re not alone.”

Todd echoes the importance of staying connected while aging. “Before I didn’t have the family I have here. It was all by myself. It wasn’t much of a life. It wasn’t very nice. Not like it is here. The best thing I ever did was move to Carefor.”

To help ensure low-income seniors in the Ottawa Valley have a place to call home, please donate to carefor.ca/donate.

By Moojan Haidari, Communications & Fundraising Specialist – Ottawa

A world without Heather is not the kind of world Lois could imagine living in – especially in today’s time. Heather is Lois’ Personal Support Worker (PSW) and has been helping Lois a few days a week for the last seven years. Life without Heather would mean waking up with heightened anxiety and feeling more isolated than ever. It would mean fearing days of not being able to get out of bed in the morning, falling and perhaps ending up in the hospital.

While her husband, Ed, tries his best to attend to her needs, at the age of 88 and with his own frail health, he desperately needs Heather’s help.

A helping hand can go a long way

There aren’t many people who understand the value of home care like Lois Frazier-Blakeney. When she suffered a fall that left her paralyzed more than 30 years ago, she relied on Carefor’s services (formerly known as the Victorian Order of Nurses) to keep her safe and healthy. Now 85 years old, and after spending five years in a nursing home, she can attest that there is no better place to receive high-quality care than in the comfort and safety of her own home.

“I spent 28 years in a wheelchair and received all kinds of support. Now I’m able to move around with my walker … If it wasn’t for PSWs like Heather, I wouldn’t be here today.”

In the seven years that longtime Carefor PSW Heather Munn has been visiting Lois, she has been helping her with her exercises, bathing, and dressing. Lois says a critical component to her care is having a trained PSW put on her waist-high compression socks, which increases her mobility and independence. Without them, she wouldn’t be able to go about her day and live a fuller life.

In turn, Heather’s helping hand has taken the brunt off Ed. “He would have to do a lot more than he already does, and he would be exhausted,” Lois admits.

Lois cannot stress enough how important Heather’s visits have been during the pandemic, easing that heightened sense of social isolation: “It’s important for us seniors to be safe at home. We aren’t leaving our space and seeing others. The only outside relationship we have is with Carefor staff.”

Undoubtedly, the relationship between a PSW and his or her longtime client becomes quite special. Heather always helps Lois feel a sense of safety and comfort, even during the most difficult of times. “They see you at your very worst and your very best – they really become your family,” Lois says.

Personal Support Workers are a bridge to health and safety for many seniors

PSWs are the pillars of community health care. In the last year, Carefor PSWs have made more than 700,000 home visits. They help people who need assistance due to illness, aging or increasing dependencies. Their services include bathing assistance, exercise, companionship, feeding assistance, grooming, light housekeeping, and more. This level of personal care helps to reduce caregiver burnout and keep clients safe and healthy in their homes, also giving many of them the dignity they deserve.

“They are the hands that help you do things you can’t do,” Lois says. “PSWs like Heather have kept me sane. They are a key force in our community.”

Supporting clients, like Lois, are far beyond a job for many PSWs: “They rely on us to start their day. We go above and beyond and lend a helping hand, a listening ear or become that shoulder to lean on during their toughest times,” Heather says.

And during the pandemic, being that support system has never been more important. “Home is where people want to grow old, and so we are doing everything we can to keep them safe and healthy in their own homes,” Heather says. A recent Home Care Ontario study found over 95% of seniors in Ontario believe staying home is the safest environment to live in during the pandemic, and over 93% of seniors in Ontario would choose to stay in their homes with home care services instead of moving to a long-term care facility.

For Lois, advocating for home care means a better future for everyone in our communities.

“The world has changed so much, and the needs for home care are also changing. Many years ago, most seniors were looked after by their family. Nowadays, it takes two people working to make ends meet, which means there isn’t anybody to keep an eye on an older person. So if seniors can’t stay in their own home to receive the help to keep them out of the nursing homes, who would do it if it wasn’t for a personal support worker?”

Taking care of the generation that took care of us

If COVID-19 has proven one thing, it’s that home care is needed more than ever. It’s also one of the cheapest and safest ways to deliver and receive care, keeping our loved ones out of hospitals and long-term care homes.

“The world has changed so much, and yet is hasn’t. Needs have changed, and yet they haven’t. The need for home care has always been there, and forever will be,” Lois stresses.

For Lois, home is more than a place – it’s what brings her joy and comfort. Home is where she can be with her husband. It’s where her loved ones can also feel that sense of belonging.

That said, Lois can’t imagine a world without Carefor, and for good reason. Because a world with Carefor means peace of mind. It means the seniors of today – and tomorrow – are living in a community that cares for them.

“Seniors took care of you when you were young, now seniors are in a position that need your help,” Lois says.

Carefor’s home care services are a lifeline for thousands of seniors in Ottawa. Living safe and healthy lives is our clients’ right; and therefore, our duty to support it. Carefor is proud to be at the forefront in ensuring the health and safety of seniors today, and of generations to come.

You can help us keep seniors, like Lois, stay safe at home by giving at carefor.ca/donate.

As the community continues to persevere through the ups and downs of COVID-19, staying safe at home is top of mind for seniors in Eastern Counties.

The Bourgon family is thankful in receiving home care services from Carefor for over seven years. Huguette and Roger, now married for 63 years, want to stay in their home as long as possible. Lucille Ferron, a Carefor Personal Support Worker (PSW) makes it possible to do so.

Huguette’s limited mobility made it challenging to do certain activities around the home. She appreciates and looks forward to the time she gets to spend with Lucille.

“Lucille is a ray of sunshine. She is always happy and encouraging,” Huguette shares. Roger also finds comfort in having Lucille help his wife, as he knows she’s being well taken care of and is always mindful of their health and safety.

The Bourgon family is very careful with people coming and going from their home. “Lucille asks a lot of questions about the family. We are her first priority. She comes and takes our health seriously and does her job with great care,” Roger shares.

PSWs like Lucille do not want to see their clients become ill and take extra precautions to ensure their well-being. “I’ve been doing this for 17 years. I want to see clients stay safe and happy in their home as long as possible. I show them how to safely move in their home and connect them with other services as needed. As soon as I meet with someone for the first time, I do everything I can to make them feel good with respect and safety in mind,” says Lucille.

In looking to the future, Roger shares, “If it is possible, stay in your home. And if you need help to stay home, call Carefor. Try to have these services. When we have these services, we’re alright here.”

Huguette and Roger are not the only ones in the community planning on living in their home as long as possible. The Home Care Ontario Study found over 95% of seniors in Ontario believe staying home is the safest environment to live in during the pandemic, and over 93% of seniors in Ontario would choose to stay in their homes with home care services instead of moving to a long term care facility. Carefor’s team of experienced Nurses and PSWs make staying home easier by providing excellent care and companionship to seniors in Eastern Counties.

In 2019, PSWs provided over 22,730 hours of care to seniors across Eastern Counties. This number is expected to increase beyond 2020. Help Carefor continue to support seniors at home by making a donation today.

By Jennie Stephenson, Communications & Fundraising Specialist – Eastern Counties

As we age, it is important to stay socially active in our day to day living. The Carefor Adult Day Program (ADP) has made staying connected from home easier by keeping its members engaged with both online and in-person activities.

Clinton O’Connor has been a member of the ADP program in Finch for two and a half years. During this time, he formed strong bonds with the leaders and members of the group through exercises, activities, and socializing. However, members of the program and their caregivers experienced great change when programming moved online in March 2020 due to COVID-19.

To keep members connected and active, programs coordinators Sheryl and Natacha sourced online platforms including Zoom and Mercuri. They worked in collaboration with The Good Companions to share programs with the goals of keeping members engaged and giving caregivers much needed respite. Sheryl explained, “In the very beginning we found that some of our members went into panic mode, and we knew they were going to be very isolated. We needed to come up with a solution that would work well for the members and caregivers from home.”

To ease the learning curve in moving online, Sheryl and Natacha connected with families of members and worked together as a family activity. “It has opened up a new world for them. We had one member’s grandson set up her Zoom and then taught her how to use it. We were helping out online, but he was able to be there hands on. I think that’s pretty special. And now she’s big into it, and he’ll still pop in and do exercises with us every once in a while,” Sheryl shared.

Cathy, Clinton’s wife, is thankful for the program and how it makes Clinton stay engaged with its members. “He loves the Zoom. Zoom is fantastic. It allows him to do his exercise program, and his leader has arranged it so he focuses on exercising and staying physical,” said Cathy.

While Clinton participates in his exercises and other programming, Cathy takes the opportunity to unwind before taking on the day. She explained, “Clint is on there for 40 minutes. I can sit outside and enjoy a cup of tea and the breeze. We all need to breathe.”

Clinton looks forward to seeing his friends online, and occasionally, Sheryl in socially distanced porch visits. Clinton shared, “I’m the type of guy when I meet someone I either like them or I don’t, and Sheryl is a sharp lady and a great person. She’s so good with anyone having troubles. You can count on her. She’s a best friend.”

As we continue onward with uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring, Cathy can rest assured Clint and other members of ADP are well taken care of and staying connected with the world beyond their home. “They’re connected. We all need the connection. If you’re not connected to a person, living on an island isn’t fun. We need each other, and that has been made possible,” Cathy shared.

Carefor’s Adult Day Programs are a lifeline for hundreds of people and their loved ones in Eastern Counties. Carefor is proud to be at the forefront of ensuring the health and wellbeing of people living with dementia and their care partners, today and into the future.

You can help us keep people like Clinton and Cathy connected at home by giving at carefor.ca/donate.

By Moojan Haidari, Communications & Fundraising Specialist – Ottawa

The minute the screen lights up and voices begin to chatter on Carefor’s daily Virtual Adult Day Program Zoom call, David Vincent, 80, has a big smile on his face, swinging his feet to the music. His favourites are classic Irish tracks, which remind him of his days growing up in Ireland.

His wife and care partner, Barb Vincent, perches over his shoulder relieved he’s comfortable before making her way to the kitchen to relax and finish other tasks. From time to time, she walks by to see staff and clients laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes, she joins in on the fun. There’s never a dull moment.

Although David is quiet during the calls, he’s always engaging in his own way, and never misses a get-together. For David, who was diagnosed with Dementia of the early Alzheimer type (DAT) 10 years ago, this routine provides comfort and joy. For Barb, it’s a lifeline.

While everyone’s journey with dementia is unique, it’s often a journey of compassion and resilience. For the thousands of people in our city living with dementia and their care partners, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accentuated their daily challenges, as they continue to stay strong and connected during these difficult times.

Journey towards diagnosis

There’s often a preconceived notion that people have about dementia that the disease only affects the elderly, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“It took five years until David got a dementia diagnosis,” Barb said, noting that he had mild symptoms when he retired in his mid-sixties as a Presbyterian Minister in 2006.  “Dementia can be difficult to diagnose, especially when it happens at a younger age. The fluctuations make it difficult and it’s really the people who live with the person who can pick up those nuances and out-of-character moments.”

Barb noticed David’s abilities and interests starting to change as he became more withdrawn and began forgetting significant memories.

“He had a wonderful memory,” she recalled. “After four years of telling our gerontologist that this isn’t normal aging at this age, we were referred to a neuropsychologist. Then, after a fair amount of testing, that’s when we learned David had early dementia.”

The news was a lot to take in, not only for David, but also for his loved ones. “It was heartbreaking for all of us,” Barb said, recalling the difficulty of coming to terms with what that meant for the future. While David has been able to keep his sweet nature, Barb admits he’s not the same person he once was: “It’s hard for the children not to have the dad who can discuss everything from politics, theology and all the interests that he had. For me, it’s hard not to have a partner who is always there for me. While, he’s still here, he’s not able to help, and that’s hard.”

A dementia diagnosis has a way of making one’s world smaller and more isolating, during a time when connection has never mattered more.

Building from missing pieces

Dementia isn’t something you plan for, and it isn’t something you foresee dealing with in retirement. It brings lives to a standstill, forcing families to pick up the missing pieces along the way.David and Barb looking through photo albums.

“It’s a constant adjustment over time,” Barb said, noting how the couple had to switch roles during their journey with dementia, “David was extroverted and I was introverted. Now I do all the talking.”

While Barb looks back on her 50-year marriage with a smile, the couple had plans to travel and spend more time at their cottage during retirement: “That all disappeared … it’s very sad. David became very uncomfortable at the lake and I took early retirement so we could do more things together that we wouldn’t be able to do later on.”

Two years ago, they decided to move from Calgary to Ottawa to be closer to their two sons. “The two months we didn’t have access to programs was challenging. I had also had knee surgery and was full-time caregiving.”

Barb needed more than a helping hand. She needed an avenue to connect with a supportive local community of professionals and families who understand the challenges of dementia. It’s through unique respite programs where people living with dementia and their care partners can stay connected and live a more meaningful life.

Finding meaning through Carefor

Carefor’s Adult Day Programs were the second in Canada to be Best Friends Certified, which is built upon the premise that relationships are fundamental to supportive care. Currently, Carefor’s respite programs support more than 400 people living with dementia. Carling Day Programs Team Leader Makini Medina says these unique programs offer care partners a safe place for their loved ones to go that focuses on their mental and physical wellbeing. People living with dementia enjoy a day full of activities that keep them engaged, laughing, and fulfilled.  David and Barb engaging in a virtual painting class.

“Social connection is essential for reducing the progression of dementia,” Makini said. “And we do best by the care partner by allowing them to do things many of us take for granted, while also giving them peace of mind.”

During her six-hour respite, Barb has a chance to get a haircut, meet a friend for lunch, have a shower, get to her medical appointments, and do things around the house that would have been difficult to do if she was caregiving. Barb is grateful that she’s not on this journey alone thanks to all the supportive staff and care partners she has met through the program.

“Caregiving is very stressful. It’s a full-time job, and more, because you feel like you can’t get it all done and still help that person be involved and active. You can improve your quality of life and your loved ones by reaching out and creating those meaningful interactions that helps to keep who they really are alive.”

The provincial government’s lockdown orders in March were a clear sign to full-time care partners that things were only going to get harder from here.

Reducing isolation during COVID

COVID-19 has put a halt to many of our lives, but for people living with dementia, it has only exacerbated their symptoms.

“We know what isolation does to dementia,” Barb said, noting how David has declined over the past few months. “We can’t have as close as contact with our grandchildren, so David doesn’t always recognize them when they come. It’s challenging for everyone on this journey, but even more so for people dealing with the illness.”

Many clients and their loved ones can attest that life without Carefor is quite lonely. Carefor’s dementia team recognized the dire need for support during this time and immediately scheduled virtual calls, sent activity kits, and organized online events to keep people as connected as possible.

“We’re trying our best to maintain an engaging routine for them. In a world that’s already confusing, keeping routine and normalcy is very important,” Makini said. Program staff Makini Medina socializing with clients.

While this new normal hasn’t been easy to adjust to, Makini knows it’s making a difference and reducing heightened social isolation when clients continue to log on and find meaning throughout their day: “To see them laughing and engaging is all we can hope for any of our clients. They’re trying to work through this hard time.”

A time when laughter and compassion really are the best medicine

There isn’t a cure for dementia – and the number of cases aren’t declining. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, an estimated 500,000 Canadians are living with dementia – and that number is rising exponentially every year. None of us knows who will be affected,  and if and when there will be a cure. While we wait, programs like Carefor’s Adult Day Programs help people manage the daily reality and struggle of living with dementia.

“We need programs like Carefor’s that address these needs specifically,” Barb says. “It’s a specialty, and Carefor has taken an interest in making the quality of life for a person living with dementia better.”

Currently, there are nearly 300 people on a waitlist to receive these respite and wellness services. Makini agrees that there is a need for more specialized programs in our city, which rely heavily on fundraised dollars to operate.

“We can’t imagine our lives without it,” Barb said.

Carefor’s Adult Day Programs are a lifeline for hundreds of people and their loved ones in Ottawa. Carefor is proud to be at the forefront of ensuring the health and wellbeing of people living with dementia and their care partners, today and into the future.

You can help us keep people like David and Barb connected at home by giving at carefor.ca/donate.

A connection that saves lives

As challenging as it was back in March 2020 when the provincial government announced the first lockdown, that month was even more worrisome for some members in our community like Mark Kauffeldt, whose mother, Margaret, needed life-saving dialysis treatment.

Still working full-time, Mark wasn’t sure how he was going to get his mom safely to the Renfrew Victoria Hospital for treatments three times a week.

When he connected with Carefor’s transportation service, he had no idea just how much more he and his family would receive.

A matter of life and death

Dealing with a chronic medical condition is scary, and can oftentimes feel like a lonely journey. Margaret has suffered severe health issues throughout her life. She was born with a defective kidney, which was removed at 30 years old. Her other kidney, however, has always been enlarged. When she started getting multiple infections early last year, doctors recommended dialysis. That news came at the onset of a global pandemic.                

COVID-19 has put many things into perspective, such as the resources we once had at our fingertips. But most of all, the human connections some of us took for granted. While Margaret lives in a building at the end of Mark’s house, she still lives alone and has a limited social life. For many seniors in our community, especially for those who don’t have loved ones close by, this time of heightened social isolation can take a toll on their physical and mental health.

In the shadow of COVID-19, reliable transportation services keeping our community safe and connected has never been more important.

More than a drive Volunteer driver Roma, assisting Margaret.

For the Kauffeldts, volunteer Carefor driver Roma Bouchard was more than someone who drove mom to her medical appointments.

“He’s become like a member of our family,” Mark says.

Roma started volunteering more than a decade ago, after retiring from the Canadian Armed Forces. He says helping make someone’s life easier, even if it’s as simple as driving Carefor clients to their medical appointments, means a great deal to him: “This service is a necessity. It gets me up in the morning to know I’m helping them get up the next morning.”

While Margaret’s ride with Roma is only 40 minutes long to and from the hospital, there’s still plenty of time to connect, laugh, share life experiences, take a load off, and essentially facilitate those much-needed human connections.

“I don’t know what I’d do without him,” Margaret says. “If it wasn’t for Roma, I would have to move away far from my son and rent a place close to the hospital.”

Mark is grateful that his mother’s health and spirits have improved over the past year. He says Roma goes above and beyond in providing comfortable and friendly service. On most days, Roma even brings a treat for Mark’s dog when picking up Margaret. 

“He’s very social and thoughtful. He’s become somebody different for her to speak and socialize with, which has made a big difference for her because she doesn’t have many social activities throughout the day,” Mark says.

Taking care of a community

As many of our clients and their loved ones have said, life without Carefor’s transportation services would be bleak for many individuals.

This key community support service offers flexible and affordable transportation to help individuals unable to access other means of transportation to local and out-of-town medical appointments. In 2019-2020 alone, the program gave more than 62,000 rides.

“Without Carefor, people wouldn’t be taken care of. Some people would have to give up on life if they wouldn’t be able to get to their appointment. If my mother couldn’t get to her appointments, she couldn’t survive very long, it’s really a matter of life and death,” Mark says.

He admits that he didn’t fully grasp the value of essential community support services until he was in great need of it: “People who don’t need it don’t know what people are going through and how important these life-saving services are in our community.”

Margaret agrees: “Everyone should know how wonderful they are.”

 

Carefor’s transportation services are a lifeline for many people and their loved ones in Pembroke-Renfrew County. Carefor is proud to be at the forefront of ensuring the health and wellbeing of vulnerable members in our community, today and into the future.

You can help us keep people like Mark and Margaret stay connected by giving at carefor.ca/donate.