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EXTRA CARE FROM SAINT ELIZABETH
After a lifetime of caring for others, Ruth Calinsky Paz is getting some extra care from Saint Elizabeth so she can remain in her Toronto home.
Ruth and her husband Geraldo moved to Canada from Brazil about 15 years ago, following their daughter Elaine who came here five years earlier. Ruth has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), a debilitating neurodegenerative disease which has now confined her to a wheelchair.
Geraldo, who’s almost 80 years old, provides 24/7 care for Ruth. She receives visits from nurses and other home care workers through the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre, but there was little opportunity for Geraldo to take a break from his caregiving duties, at least until the Caregiver Relief program offered by the Saint Elizabeth Foundation came to the family’s aid.
Now, thanks to charitable donations to the Foundation, a Saint Elizabeth personal support worker comes to Ruth and Geraldo’s home for two hours every Tuesday-Friday, at no cost to them.
“They make sure he goes for a walk and gets some fresh air. He can also pick up some milk,” says Elaine. “The time goes very fast, because he spends part of the time making sure everything is settled with my mom before he goes. Once he’s sure, it helps distract his mind.”
Two Saint Elizabeth PSWs provide regular care to Ruth and Geraldo, who don’t speak English. They communicate through gestures, and at times translate words using an app on the PSW’s phone. Ruth is unable to speak at all, but still communicates with her eyes. A glance at a piece of art on the wall of her home is her way of telling a visitor that she painted it.
“He has to feel safe and comfortable to leave her under their care. But there’s also the socializing part to it. I can feel new energy coming into the house when they arrive. They communicate through the language of love.”
There has always been a lot of love, and caring, in this family. Back in Brazil, Ruth and Geraldo raised five children and adopted another. Ruth became an unofficial caregiver to the neighborhood children, and eventually a counselor for young women with addiction issues.
“She fed and clothed them, took them into her home”, recalls Elaine. “My mother is my hero, my role model. I learned compassion from her. She was born a social worker. I went to school (to become one). “
Geraldo doesn’t want to think about caring for his wife anywhere but home. “Here is my home. I have access to my children and grandchildren when they come to visit every Saturday. I have freedom and independence. I am so thankful to the people who out of the goodness of their heart give me and my wife the help we need.”
Elaine agrees. “I can’t say enough about the support, and the quality of support, that we get from Saint Elizabeth. I want to extend my special gratitude to the donors (to the Foundation) who make this possible for us.
The Saint Elizabeth Caregiver Relief Program offers free care and education to families with a demonstrated financial need to help relieve the physical and emotional challenges of caregiving. The services and hours provided – more than 120,000 hours to date – are customized to each family’s situation. For more information, please visit www.saintelizabeth.com and click on “Foundation”.