News Story

Caring for the Elderly

One song, one air conditioner and one phone call at a time

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a terrible impact on seniors, especially those in long-term care residences, which have been most severely affected. In an effort to address this situation, members of the Montreal Quebec Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have focused on creative ways to reach out and connect with the elderly and vulnerable over the past 12 months.

Pierre Anthian, assistant communication director for the Montreal Quebec Stake, was concerned about the well-being of seniors when a heat wave hit Quebec in 2020. The government was caught off guard, because air conditioners for seniors residences had not yet been ordered or installed. This was problematic because the pandemic has caused many seniors to be quarantined in their care homes.

Anthian launched an initiative to find and deliver air conditioners to seniors. He invited people to donate surplus air conditioners stored in their garages, basements and attics.

“The response was not only overwhelming but beyond my expectations — 143 families came forward, and as many air conditioners were installed in the following days in four long-term care facilities where vulnerable, sick and lonely seniors were able to receive some comfort and coolness to better cope with the double ordeal,” said Anthian.

Recent studies have shown that the life expectancy of seniors is reduced by approximately 30 per cent when they suffer from isolation (“Social Isolation and Mortality Among Canadian Seniors”). This can be devastating for the most vulnerable populations.

In order to break the feeling of isolation for seniors, Church members organized an outdoor concert in several retirement homes. Maintaining a prescribed physical distance, more than 15 volunteers performed for seniors at L’Oasis in Laval, Quebec, and at the Boréa Residence in Blainville, Quebec. Residents of more than 300 seniors apartments were invited to listen to hymns and popular and old-time songs. The outdoor concert allowed residents to interact and be reassured during difficult and uncertain times.

“The volunteerism, support for residents and love that comes from these projects have warmed and reassured many residents in a time of uncertainty and forced loneliness,” said Yvonne Mongeau, JustServe specialist for the Montreal Quebec Stake. (JustServe is a free online clearinghouse that identifies local service opportunities.)

In an effort to continue to break the isolation, if only for a few minutes, members of the Montreal Quebec Stake organized another project: Câlins virtuels (Virtual Hugs). The name clearly states the project’s purpose: to offer a virtual hug — in the form of a phone call, a card or a visit — to a stranger who is isolated and needs to know they are not alone. Several Church members have volunteered to perform these small acts of love.

“We can’t change the current situation, but we can make a difference in a person’s life by following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and reaching out — safely — to those in need, for we know well that it is ‘by small and simple things that great things are brought to pass’ (Alma 37:6),” said Adriana Robledo, communication director for the Montreal Quebec Stake.

Thanks to this project, so far, more than 300 letters have been sent, more than 100 calls have been made and more than 40 people have been visited.

In simple yet great ways, Latter-day Saints in the Montreal Quebec Stake continue to help the elderly and vulnerable. They encourage others to do the same.

Sister Sharon Eubank, first counsellor in the Relief Society general presidency, reminds us, “The Lord knows the effort you are making. You are making progress. Keep at it. He sees all your hidden sacrifices and counts them for the good of you and your loved ones. Your work is not in vain. You are not alone” (“Christ: The Light That Shines in the Darkness,” April 2019 general conference).

Contributed by Adriana Robledo, Montreal Quebec Stake Communication Director

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