Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 8, 1999
A voice for voiceless seniors
Maria Labrecque Centre provides training for compassionate care for seniors
By BYRON PRICE
Special to the WCR
The United Nations has proclaimed 1999 as The International Year of Older Persons to promote public awareness and recognition of the elderly within our society.
The percentage of the world population over the age of 65 will increase from 10 to 31 per cent between 1995 and 2150.
How will your loved ones be cared for? What type of care will they receive? Who trains people to be quality caregivers where the human being is valued as sacred?
In the midst of an uncertain future for our health care system, and U.S.-style medicine is creeping North to Canada. The emphasis on the economic bottom line forces us to ask questions: "How much time is acceptable to spend with a patient."
Where do you "put" that "patient" whose name is mom or dad? Who do you have looking after mom or dad?
In the face of stark realities, God shows us that his Spirit does walk with his people.
There is a place in Calgary called the Maria Labrecque Centre which is a training and consultation centre. Sister Maria Labrecque, a Sister of Providence, is the inspiration for the organization. She has devoted her life to building hospitals, and administering hospitals and nursing homes.
Labrecque always made sure the sick and the elderly were taken care of with great tenderness. She now suffers from loss of autonomy and is in residential care.
It was Labrecque's spirit that led Micheline Pare to found the Maria Labrecque Centre in 1994. She was joined a year later by Sister Simone Michaud, a Sister of the Holy Cross. These two women have a deep love for the voiceless.
Michaud says, "These people have lost everything."
Since 1994, the Maria Labrecque Centre offers specialized training programs with a unique compassionate approach to care for seniors suffering from Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses. To date, they have graduated 100 students and those graduates are in high demand.
Pare and Michaud talk of unconditional love and compassion. These motivating forces spur them on to be present to the suffering. They call us all to the passion of loving and caring for seniors. They try to instill these qualities in the teaching and training at the centre.
Pare and Michaud know the reality.
Pare says, "How would you like it if someone parked you in your wheelchair for eight hours?" Who can sit for that length of time?"
Because of lack of toileting, seniors are subjected to the vicious circle: constipation, medication (enemas and suppositories) and the humiliation of been soiled. Would you be justifiably angry? Or if you are frail and you eat slowly, your food tray is taken away. How would you feel going to bed hungry?"
Pare and Michaud are not naive about the system. Some trained caregivers work in three or more care facilities just to make a living, with no benefits.
If we are to assure quality care in our health care system, we have to offer our caregivers an appealing career based on healthier and more satisfying working conditions. This would help eliminate abuse of elders and reduce caregivers' stress and burnout.
Compassion is the key word at the Maria Labrecque Centre. Not only are the students taught specialized nursing skills and given the best information regarding the care of seniors in loss of autonomy, they are also challenged to go the "extra mile."
The centre's mission is to be a voice for voiceless seniors. Pare and Michaud believe that Christ is that senior who is asking for gentleness, tenderness and compassion. It is Christ asking for respect and dignity.
Maria Labrecque Centre's plan is to build its own residential centre for seniors who have lost their autonomy so that they will have a greater quality of life to the end of the journey.