Portraits of Three Seniors
The South East LHIN is pleased to provide a glimpse into the lives of three seniors from our region – Bernie, Betty and Moira– who choose to live at home with the support of their families, friends, neighbours and local service providers.
Bernie is 94 and has been living in the same house for 44 years. He is a pensioner on a fixed income. Although his daughters would like him to get out more, he is content, sitting by the window in the kitchen in his favourite chair.
On the day that we visited him, it was cold outside but warm inside, and the sun was streaming in. His two daughters, Judy and Sandy, and his granddaughter were over for a visit. “We see dad at least three or four times a week,” says Judy. He also has another daughter and a son who live in Buck Lake.
Bernie’s wife passed away four years ago, and since that time some of his meals have been provided by Meals on Wheels. They come Monday through Friday at lunchtime to deliver a hot meal. Saturdays and Sundays are excluded because delivery is not available over the weekend, as are holidays. Six months ago, Bernie’s family found out that he qualified for the Veterans Affairs Veterans Independence Program. Now, through the program, the cost of these meals are covered, a housekeeper comes in to clean his house every two weeks, and his son takes his clothes to be laundered every two weeks. “We arranged for these services, and provide invoices to Veterans Affairs,” Judy explains.
Bernie has dementia and his mobility is limited so, last fall, his family looked into retirement homes. “We took him to see one that was really nice,” says Sandy. “It was in Perth, and the room had a view on a river. But he told us, ‘there’s no way that I’m staying here’.”
“Dad likes to be at home,” explains Sandy. “So this is where he’ll stay. It’s his choice.”
Betty is 91 and lives in a house that overlooks Picton Harbour. It is comfortably furnished with flea-market finds, art and family mementos. “This was done in the 1850s by my great great grandmother,” she tells us, pointing to a framed collage of Victorian women’s fashion.
Betty bought the house with her sister more than 25 years ago when she was still working in Toronto and contemplating retirement. The house is within walking distance of the post office.
It has a front porch, a balcony and a deck at the back. The deck is where she likes to be in the summer, because it looks out on her flower garden. These days, she’s only able to putter around in the garden. “I hire someone to take care of the heavy gardening work,” explains Betty. She also likes to knit, and shows us a blue shrug that she is making for one of the residents of a nearby nursing home. “It helps to keep them warm,” she says.
Betty can’t do as much as she used to, so she pays her neighbour, Bob, to do maintenance work in and around the house. Because she doesn’t own a car, he sometimes drives her to appointments or her nephew does, and she covers their gas. Last year, Betty was diagnosed with cancer and now needs to go to Kingston General Hospital for treatment. She says that the Cancer Society covers her transportation, but she is on her own for other appointments. “So that’s difficult,” she adds.
Betty is proud to have reached 90 and to be living at home still. “There are a few of us on this street who are in our 90s and still living in our own homes,” says Betty. “It’s a real milestone.”
Moira is 77 and lives with her daughter, Jo-Ann. Jo-Ann moved in with her mother six years ago, when her father passed away. Moira has Alzheimer’s disease. Jo-Ann left her job at a pharmaceutical data company in Montreal to take care of her mother full time.
Moira and Jo-Ann live in a two-storey townhouse, across from a golf course, which is handy because Jo-Ann likes to golf. “On a clear day, we can see straight across to the States,” says Jo-Ann, looking out over her backyard.
It’s a close-knit community where people know each other. “Mom can take little walks with Jake (her dog), and I know that the neighbours will look out for her,” says Jo-Ann.
Moira receives 14 hours of personal care a week provided to her every morning by a Red Cross personal support worker. Community and Primary Health Care also provides three hours of respite care a week, on Wednesdays, so Jo-Ann can have some time to herself. Three times a week, a volunteer drives Moira to the YMCA so she can socialize. Just recently, Moira started attending an Adult Day Program for people with Alzheimer’s, so that gives Jo-Ann a break.
Jo-Ann says it would be nice to have more time to herself. She was able to find a program, which enabled her to have her mother cared for in a guesthouse for a week, but it wasn’t in the area. “I wish we had something like this, locally,” she says. Jo-Ann is also concerned about what will happen when her mother can’t manage the stairs anymore. “I’d like to put in a chair lift, but they are very expensive,” she says. “I want to do everything I can, to keep mom with me at home.”