The prospect of frail seniors and their often weary caregivers being left without a day centre in the Côte St. Luc area has been averted with the opening of a new federally funded program.
Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather, who was largely responsible for securing the more than $390,000 grant, was on hand for the inauguration on Aug. 29 of the Drop-in Program for Older Adults, housed in the Côte St. Luc Aquatic and Community Centre (CSLACC) and run by the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors.
Housefather, while Côte St. Luc mayor, heeded the anxiety expressed by relatives of the elderly people who had been going to a long-running drop-in centre at CLSC René-Cassin in that suburb’s Cavendish Health and Social Services Centre.
Families were stunned in May 2015 when they were informed that the René-Cassin program would close within a month. The 39 users, who had relatively mild physical and cognitive impairments and were living at home, were to be dispersed to other day programs in the city’s west end.
The news came just a month after the implementation of Bill 10, which drastically reorganized Quebec’s health and social services. The Cavendish centre had come under the administration of the newly created CIUSSS Centre Ouest de l’Ile de Montréal. Housefather promised to find support for some kind of public-private partnership that would fill the void.
Some users did go to other programs, but the CIUSSS kept the René-Cassin centre going until just before the new one at the CSLACC opened.
The federal New Horizons for Seniors Program grant, announced this April, is good for three years.
The new program is more limited than the one at René-Cassin. Open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., it accommodates a maximum of 12 people per day and, for now, each participant can attend one day a week. Exception is made for those transferring from René-Cassin, who were going two and sometimes three days a week.
The primary criterion for eligibility is that their caregiver must be in need of respite. Residency in Côte St. Luc is not required. Participants must be able to get around independently and eat, take medication and go to the toilet on their own, and be well enough not to need constant monitoring.
Cummings staff lead such activities as arts therapy, gentle exercise and discussions.
Unlike René-Cassin, there are no fees, but lunch is not provided and participants must make arrangements for their transportation.
The program takes place in a purposed room on the ground floor, directly accessible through a side entrance.
The room gives on to a sheltered and shaded green space, where a deck has been constructed.
As Mayor Mitchell Brownstein pointed out, the location does not isolate participants. “They are part of what is going on in the community,” he said.
There are plans to involve youths in inter-generational activities.
Participants must be registered, and the CIUSSS has been involved in referrals and the program’s organization, as has the office of D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum. Program supervisor Erica Botner said a few spots are still available.
Marilyn Livingstone, whose husband Bob, 89, suffers from mild dementia, is overjoyed.
This is the sole organized program he attends; the rest of the week, she ensures that he is kept busy. “I hate staying in the house,” said a cheerful Bob, who was enjoying a visit by zootherapy dog, Willy.
“I can’t tell you how important this is,” she said, for him and for her, tasked as she is with his around-the-clock care.
Sharon Freedman said her 90-year-old mother, Mary, loves the socialization, and it helps keep her mind active. But Freedman, who was recognized by Housefather as the most persistent campaigner for such programming, does have some criticism.
Not serving a meal is a problem because people with dementia are forgetful about bringing lunch with them, she said, and availability is too limited.
“I am sure there will be a need to expand and obtain more money because, as the population ages, the need for home care and drop-in centres of high quality like this one will keep people at home longer,” said Freedman, a social worker.
Botner said it is hoped that the program can be extended in time. The lack of meals was a condition of the grant, she added, but snacks are provided. The room has a fridge for the food participants bring and they eat together at a designated time.
Birnbaum announced that the government is allocating an additional $22.2 million to support services that help seniors remain at home as long as possible.
“As the MNA for a riding with the largest proportion of seniors in Quebec, I am particularly encouraged to know that our government is increasing its investments in seniors’ autonomy,” he said. “Since our government was elected in April 2014, we have invested close to $138 million in home-care support.”
For information on the Drop-in Program for Older Adults, contact Botner at 514-342-1234 ext. 7318 or [email protected]