Skills required: Compassion

“Our role is to make their life a little bit better, more cheerful. It’s making their environment a pleasant one,” said Mercedes Murciano.

When Mercedes Murciano got an email from Ometz advertising a training course called Companion for Seniors, she knew right away it was meant for her.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, although I was in a completely different field. Probably because I didn’t grow up with grandparents, I’ve always had a penchant for the elderly. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always gone towards them. It was innate in me,” said Murciano. A graduate of the inaugural course three years ago, Murciano has been steadily working with different clients and on various contracts ever since.

The idea of a companion for seniors is to enable the person to remain at home and maintain their independence.  A companion will schedule and accompany them to appointments, engagements and activities, help with shopping and cooking, as well as provide socialization. Essentially, the caregiver becomes the eyes and ears of the family when they cannot be present. “I had the compassion, I had the patience; that’s part of who I am. I view my job as to enhance their quality of life, to make it better, whether it’s just cheering them on or being interactive with them. Our role is to make their life a little bit better, more cheerful. It’s making their environment a pleasant one.”


Within 10 years, 22.8% of the Jewish population of Montreal will be over 65 years old.

Recognizing a need in the marketplace, Ometz started this course to offer skills and employability training to those who met the qualifications and were looking for alternate fields of work. The 18-week training includes 90 hours of a supervised internship and provides students with an understanding of how to work with older adults. The course is taught by professionals in the field of care services, such as geriatric nurses, social workers and special care counsellors, most of who come from Cummings Centre and CSSS Cavendish. Students participate in examinations and must pass the course. When they do, graduates are certified in CPR by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, in PDSB training (how to make safe transfers, feed and bathe clients) by Asstsas, and by the Alzheimer Society of Canada in extensive Alzheimer training.

“It’s a very good course; it covers all the basics. All the instructors were very good and they showed us the reality of things, how to approach it better, how to protect ourselves legally when you work for a family and the limitations you have to give on what you are able and not able to do,” said Murciano, who now dreams of opening her own seniors’ home. “I’ve always heard about the mistreatment of the elderly. Prior to this course, I did a lot of volunteering in old age homes and I saw how some people weren’t approaching them properly. This is where Ometz has a different approach to it; where there is more respect, more care for their integrity and dignity. That is the perspective I want to apply to it.”

While it’s hard to know exact statistics due to different types of employment and duration of contracts, more than half of the approximately 70 graduates of the course are currently working in the field. Most are working part-time and/or have several clients.  Many work privately, some in residences, through agencies and support services.  In a few cases, graduates have opened their own residences and some married their skills with the needs of the elderly; for example working in recreational therapy, overseeing art programs for seniors.  One young man with a psychology background decided he wanted to gear his practice to seniors.  There have even been people taking the course in preparation for being able to care for an aging family member. As the population is growing older, so will the need for companions and the training this program provides.

“For the ones that have it in them to do this, there is a future in it. It’s a growing field – in 10 years it’s going to be major, with loads of opportunities. It’s a job that will be in demand. At the same time as making your living, it’s also rewarding. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. You are getting parnasa and doing the mitzvah of caring for the elderly,” said Murciano, who explained that Ometz encourages graduates to continue their professional development after the course because the level of proficiency in working with the elderly must be maintained so they can model best practices in the field.  “If you go to Cavendish Mall, you see the elderly with their caregiver and the woman is just reading and the elderly man or woman is just sitting there. No – that’s not how it’s supposed to be. You’re supposed to interact with them. Ometz teaches you that. The field needs people who care.”

Federation CJA allocated $2,154,331 to Ometz.


The next Companion for Seniors course will be held in the Fall of 2012. For more information, please call Ometz at 514.342.0000.

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