Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario


Growing Old Gracefully (At Home); LHIN Brass Want To Know What Seniors Like Barb Martin need to stay Out Of Crowded Institutions

Posted By Corina Milic

When someone tells Barb Martin she should have put her husband in a nursing home sooner, she gets angry.

"It was fantastic, it was a blessing we had that time together. You know deep inside yourself when the time is right to put him in a home," said Martin, 81, who spent four years caring for her husband, Doug, in their Sault apartment after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2002.

He spent only a few months in long-term care before he died in November 2006, she said.

But Martin relied heavily on the support of local health care programs.

More than 125 health service providers and 100 seniors and their families will gather for a summit in the Sault next week to discuss how new government money can be used to help people grow old in their own homes.

Ontario's Aging at Home Strategy will add $702 million over the next three years to the Local Health Integration Network's $1-billion budget.

"They are much happier (at home) and it is a much more dignified way to live that last part of their life," said Mathilde Bazinet, chair of the North East LHIN, which will host the event March 18 and 19.

Bazinet said this region has the highest percentage of seniors in Ontario and that number will only increase. "There is no way the government can afford to have all of them in institutions, nor do seniors want to be in long-care facilities."

Instead, organizers have spent the last few weeks drinking tea with seniors in 11 communities across the region to identify what seniors need to stay independent. Bazinet said she will share the results at the summit and she will suggest innovative approaches to aging at home.

"I think you need your independence, but you also need to recognize your limitations," said Martin.

To stay together the couple moved from their 3/4-acre Hamilton property, to an apartment in the Sault nearer family. Martin sent her husband to the Day Away program at the Davey Home one to three times a week.

" They made cookies and did gardening. They did exercising and played games, whatever their mental capabilities were and tried to expand on that."

The program and living with his wife at home kept Doug healthier, longer, said Martin.

She also joined the Alzheimer Society caregivers support group.

"It was such a benefit because you could talk out your problems," she said.

After Martin broke her hip, the couple waited out her recovery at Algoma Manor so someone could supervise Doug. Going back home was rough, but Martin said she firmly believed it was the right decision.

"All the way along you have these (health-care givers) walking with you and you can always pick up the phone and talk to someone. It's a big comfort zone."

Seniors across Northeastern Ontario have similar requests for home support, said Bazinet.

Needs she encountered include daytime companionship, a hot meal, transportation assistance and having some kind of mechanism to stop seniors from overmedicating themselves.

The organization has already begun funding 38 initiatives. Bazinet said she hopes the upcoming forum will help develop new projects.

The summit takes place March 18, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and March 19, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Holiday Inn. To view a full slate of programing go to Article ID# 945259

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