MONTREAL – A much-needed drop-in centre for vulnerable seniors will be established in the Côte St. Luc Aquatic and Community Centre (CSLACC), thanks to a nearly $400,000 federal grant.
The announcement of the new program by Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather on April 22 is welcome news to family caregivers who have been worried over the past year about the future of a long-running drop-in centre in the CLSC René-Cassin in the Quartier Cavendish in Côte St. Luc.
Housefather told The CJN that the new centre, which he hopes will open by early summer, will as much as possible replicate the services of the one at René-Cassin before they were cut back last year.
That would mean being open in the daytime from Monday to Friday and having 75 places available over the week, with a maximum of 15 participants per day, said Housefather, who added that demand is strong for this type of service.
The program is intended for those living outside institutions, cared for by relatives in Côte St. Luc, Hampstead, Montreal West and parts of Snowdon and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
The centre will be run in partnership with the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors, and will be called the Cummings Caregiver Support Centre.
The Cummings Centre will receive $390,913 over three years from the federal New Horizons for Seniors Program.
In addition to respite, the centre will offer other support services to caregivers, who are often seniors themselves, including workshops and information sessions.
There was an outcry among families last May when West-Central Montreal Health, one of the province’s then newly created health and social services administrative agencies, told them the centre was closing at the end of that month – without any prior consultation with the users.
At the time, 39 people, all with significant cognitive or physical impairments, were going to the centre, which provided transportation, activities and a meal – for a fee, typically from $40-$60 a day.
The clients were to be relocated to other day programs – both public and private – within West-Central’s territory.
In response to the protest, West-Central relented and reduced René-Cassin’s schedule from five to three days a week, and stopped taking new clients, while it reviewed its future.
Housefather, then mayor of Côte St. Luc, promised to find the means to open another centre, perhaps through a public-private partnership.
Sharon Freedman, whose mother Mary attends René-Cassin two days a week, is delighted with the news. A social worker by profession, she has been one of the most persistent advocates for more services for this vulnerable population.
The alternatives offered then by West-Central were not attractive, she said, either because of their location or limited services. Nor did they provide a Jewish milieu.
Her mother, who has mild dementia, now spends three other days a week at Cummings, Congregation Shaar Hashomayim’s Open Gate program (for which Freedman has high praise), and at a private centre.
Freedman gives full credit to Housefather, as well as the office of MNA David Birnbaum, for “working tirelessly” over the past year to secure the funding from Ottawa.
The grant is enabling ground-floor space at the CSLACC, a municipal facility, to be readapted and equipped to accommodate frail users and to pay for program animators, Housefather said. The Town of Hampstead is also a partner in this project, as is West-Central, which will refer clients.
Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, president and CEO of West-Central, stated: “All of our network’s activities are designed to put users’ needs first, and even if certain services sometimes need to be rearranged, an effort is made to ensure that the overall level and quality of service is maintained.”
While overjoyed by the new centre, Freedman pointed out that there is still not one program on Sundays for vulnerable seniors in the territory. She is pressing the Cummings Centre to, at least, offer a few hours that day, perhaps showing a movie in the afternoon.