ByWard Market seniors’ home points to a new model of affordable care

OTTAWA — After suffering a stroke last year, André Lacombe knew he could not live on his own any longer.

The 69-year-old cancer survivor took a few falls in his Mooney’s Bay apartment. He tired easily. He often ordered in meals instead of shopping and cooking. “I couldn’t look after myself,” he says. “I was too afraid to get into the shower and fall.”

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Following a three-month hospital stay, Lacombe moved into a new type of seniors’ residence on Murray Street in the ByWard Market.

The 50-bed Montfort Renaissance Residence is designed for people 65 and older who need both affordable housing as well as help with the activities of daily living. It is currently the only home of its kind in the region, but two more are expected to open in the next two years.

Lacombe, a retired addictions and alcohol treatment worker, pays $1,500 a month for a private room and washroom. The rent includes meals, housekeeping, laundry and recreational activities.

Also provided are services such as help with bathing, dressing, eating and toileting. There is 24-hour supervision, transfers from wheelchair to bed, reminders to take medication, and escorts to medical appointments or other outings.

In comparison, the average monthly rent for a room in retirement homes in Ottawa is about $3,050, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. “This seemed more affordable for me,” says Lacombe.

The French-speaking residence is owned and operated by a non-profit francophone community health agency called Montfort Renaissance. Resident fees pay for food and lodging, while the personal care is funded by the new assisted living program of the Champlain Local Integrated Health Network (LHIN), the Crown agency in charge of health care in the region.

“It’s for people who can no longer live independently in their own home and who need a level of care slightly above what they would get through regular homecare services,” explains LHIN chief executive Chantale LeClerc.

“They probably don’t have enough funds to buy additional homecare,” she says. “They don’t need a long-term-care facility which is for people who need nursing. They maybe can’t afford a retirement home.”

According to the 2006 census, 33 per cent of Ottawa seniors have an annual income of $20,000 or less.

“For seniors in particular there is a need for affordable housing so they can continue to age in the community,” says LeClerc. “What’s key here is bringing the supportive services along with the affordable housing.”

To get in, you must be referred by the Champlain Community Care Access Centre; 60 per cent of referrals must come from hospitals and 40 per cent from the community.

The aim is to prevent premature admission to long-term-care homes, freeing these beds for people who need them most. It is also much cheaper for the health care system, which pays $50 a day per resident at the Montfort Renaissance Residence versus $153 a day for long-term-care.

“It also keeps people out of hospital and emergency departments,” adds LeClerc. “There are people who can intervene if they notice your health condition is changing, they can make a call to your family physician.”

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