Caring for Seniors in Crisis

Photo : courtesy of JFNA

Photo : courtesy of JFNA

Having only a modest pension for income, and without any family, Edith, a 75-year-old widow, was faced with an agonizing choice: pay for a costly new medication, which her doctor insisted was absolutely necessary, but not covered by Medicare, or pay the rent. Afraid not to follow the doctor’s advice, it wasn’t long before she fell behind on her rent.

After three months passed, she was evicted by her landlord. Left sleeping out on the street, unkempt, she was found by someone with a good heart who brought her to the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors, where she was immediately met by a social worker. The first thing he did was find her a new place to live. The Seniors in Crisis program paid her first month’s rent and interceded with government health authorities, ultimately convincing them to cover 80% of the cost of her medicine. As a result, and thanks to the help of her social worker and some financial planning guidance, she is now able to manage her budget. While there isn’t much to spare, she can afford the necessities.

Cummings Centre plays a crucial role every day in helping distressed seniors who have nowhere else to turn. Every person referred to Seniors in Crisis has a unique problem, but in each case the need is acute. The Jewish community has a large elderly population, many of whose children no longer live in Montreal and, therefore, are unable to provide their parents with daily care.

This is the situation confronting Edgar, 89, whose two children live in Toronto. He insists on staying in his own apartment here, even after he was robbed of his rent money while walking home from the bank one day. He approached the Cummings Centre for help. Edgar accepted an offer from Seniors in Crisis to step in and pay that month’s rent. A Cummings social worker also arranged for someone to come to his home to give him a shower twice a week, as he has grown increasingly frail and finds it difficult to care for himself all alone.

Many seniors in crisis are referred by family or their local CLSC. Le Café, as well, has proven an important point of access to those in need. Many seniors have come to rely on its twice weekly dinner service to help them stretch their limited means.

It was an attentive volunteer at Le Café who noticed that Lilly, 83, was having trouble eating one evening. Lilly told her that, although chewing caused her tremendous pain, she couldn’t afford to visit a dentist. The volunteer alerted a Cummings social worker, who arranged an appointment with a dentist. He discovered that she had to have oral surgery and new dentures, both of which Seniors in Crisis paid for. Since then, Lilly’s quality of life has improved immeasurably. Not only is she able to enjoy food again, but she is able to eat a healthier, more balanced diet.

Seniors are the least likely to recover from an economic decline, often with only fixed savings to last out the rest of their lives. Those depending solely on government pensions are frequently unable to afford all their basic needs. The cost of meeting increasing demands has resulted in a 20% increase in the cost of meeting the needs of Seniors in Crisis last year. Still, each success represents a better life for a senior in need.

Federation CJA allocates more than $1.6 million to the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors.

The Cummings Centre is a fully integrated, non-profit organization that provides educational, recreational, and wellness programs and social services to the 50+ community.

The annual Sports Celebrity Breakfast on March 27, honouring Mark Routtenberg and the 1984 Montreal Expos, is in support of Seniors in Crisis. For further information on this or Seniors in Crisis, call 514-342-1234 or email