05/09/2015 11:44 EDT | Updated 05/09/2016 05:59 EDT

Quebec seniors left hanging after services drastically cut

Seniors' centres and services are being cut to the bone at CLSC René-Cassin in Montreal's west end, leaving few options for the elderly living at home and their caregivers.

Counsellors from seniors' centres in Montreal's west end are urging the Cavendish CIUSSS (formerly CSSS) to rethink its cuts to services, including home visits to isolated seniors, counselling for caregivers and daytime activities for seniors. Most of the services offered by the CLSC were free or affordable.

A drop-in centre at the Cavendish Mall that allowed seniors to come by for daily activities will close for good.

Maxime Bloom, president of the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors, said that she started receiving calls from panicked seniors looking for another place to go as soon as word got out that services at the René-Cassin CLSC were being cut.

"We do have some place in our program, but they can only come once a week, maybe twice a week sometimes," Bloom said.

Parkinson's patient loses main daily activity 

Another drop-in space for seniors at the Henri-Bradet Residential Centre has a waiting list and a less flexible schedule.

Patrick Durivage of the CLSC workers' union offered the case of one senior, a 78-year-old with Parkinson's, as an example of what the cuts mean.

"One of my clients who used to go to the drop-in centre, they referred him to a different day centre and they say, 'OK, well, pick up time is 9 a.m.' [The client] said that, 'With my Parkinson's, I can't get up at 9 a.m. I need time to get up and get my day started, and I usually come at 10 or 10:30 a.m.,'" Durivage said.

He said if his client was told that if he couldn't be ready for the 9 a.m. pickup, no other arrangements could be made.

The Cavendish CIUSSS's website still says that its caregiver support centre is a "leading program" that offers a drop-in program that "provides caregivers with respite by organizing activities for care-receivers… Seniors suffering from a loss of autonomy who would otherwise remain isolated in their homes benefit from group activities that are tailored to their individual needs."

However, the cuts — a by-product of the reorganization of the province's health care system under Bill 10 — mean a tougher time for everyone giving or receiving care.

- Download PDF of Bill 10 

Staff at the CLSC have launched a petition asking the administration to re-examine its decision.

Do more with less

Meanwhile, Bloom of the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors said her centre will do its best to take in some of the seniors from the René-Cassin CLSC, but that even her resources are scarce.

Bloom said that unfortunately means that not only will seniors lose out on essential services, but caregivers will be under greater pressure to do more with less.

"This was a program that gave some respite to the caregiver… This was a place where they knew they could bring their loved one or the person they are taking care of and have them well taken care of," Bloom said. "This is ending. This is the sad thing."