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Written By: Janessa Bishop
Photos By: Gerald Allain

Ask most people who have spent time in a hospital where they want to be and the answer is likely unanimous: at home.

Home is where we feel most connected to ourselves and the people we love, where our memories surround us in the photos and treasured items we have collected over the years. It’s where we feel most comfortable, safe and in control of our lives.

Circle of Care, part of Sinai Health System, is committed to connecting clients to care that allows them to preserve what matters most — living comfortably and independently in their own homes.

“Circle of Care started as a tiny, grassroots organization in a small house 42 years ago, and it’s grown into so much more,” says Carey Lucki, Interim President and Vice-President of Client Services at Circle of Care. “We’re extremely dedicated to providing compassionate care to keep our clients living as independently as possible in their homes.”

Above: A free exercise class provided by Circle of Care

With close to 1,000 employees and over 400 volunteers, Circle of Care helps simplify everyday life for more than 13,000 clients across the GTA each year. Circle of Care specializes in providing home personal support services, professional services and many community programs to seniors and their caregivers.

“We understand the challenges that seniors and caregivers face in later life stages and can support them with compassion, expertise and experience.” says Carey.

Clients referred to Circle of Care have access to in-home consultations, customized care plans, regular home visits, 24-hour on-call support and navigation assistance to other community supports as required. Circle of Care also offers Kosher Meals on Wheels, transportation services and an Adult Day Centre for Seniors, as well as falls prevention and exercise classes.

Connecting clients to care in the community

For clients who need assistance getting to and from places, Circle of Care’s iRide Plus is a flexible, friendly transportation service. Ross Sternberg has worked as a driver for over 10 years, providing lifts back and forth for clients to social events, medical appointments and discharges from hospital to home.

Some clients, like Suzy Karpat, simply need help getting to and from one of the 152 exercise or falls prevention classes Circle of Care offers at multiple locations across North York and South West York Region. These classes are run by registered occupational therapists, physiotherapists and physiotherapy assistants.

Above: Ross Sternberg helps Suzy Karpat into an iRide Plus vehicle after her exercise class.

“I was a volunteer with Meals on Wheels for years, but had to stop after having a bad fall,” says Suzy. “I enjoy the exercise classes because it’s a great way to stay active and meet new people.”

Circle of Care also offers specialized programs, such as an adult day program for clients with dementia and a Holocaust survivors program, which provides additional personal support hours, emergency medical and dental assistance, mental health support, Kosher Meals on Wheels and transportation services.

And care at home

Getting out of bed, eating breakfast, taking a shower — these simple tasks that many of us take for granted can become challenging as we age, or if our health is compromised. As a personal support worker (PSW), Leonora Durango assists clients with these daily tasks, providing critical support so they can continue to live comfortably at home.

Leonora has worked at Circle of Care for over six years. As a PSW, she helps clients with daily tasks at home, seeing as many as five clients per day. She has worked for Mrs. Marcus, 86, and Mr. Marcus, 99, for five years and visits them daily in their North York apartment.

“I have a close relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Marcus. I see them every day, so they’re like a part of my family,” says Leonora. “It’s a very close relationship, because I’ve become part of their daily lives.”

The Marcuses rely on Circle of Care to help them live independently at home. As they both use walkers and are at risk for falls, they rely on Leonora’s support in the morning to get dressed and showered safely.

Above: Mr. and Mrs. Marcus enjoy a kosher meal delivered by Circle of Care's Kosher Meals on Wheels volunteers.

“We sit around a lot because we can’t drive anymore, and Leonora really brings us to life when she comes in,” says Mrs. Marcus.

“We look forward to her visits,” adds Mr. Marcus. “She’s always got a smile on her face.” To ensure continuity of care, PSWs and clients are paired together as much as possible. Once a PSW learns a client’s routine, he or she is better able to sense any changes in a client’s behaviour or health.

“Personal support workers are often the first point of contact for many seniors and families,” says Carey. “In many cases, PSWs spend significant amounts of time with clients. They become very important in the client’s and family’s life.”

Later in the day, Leonora visits her next client, 81-year-old Bonnee Peden. Bonnee has lived with multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years and now relies on a motorized wheelchair to get around her apartment. Leonora helps with her meals, cleaning and does her laundry.

“I really adore Bonnee. She’s always so positive and warm, and I love spending time with her,” says Leonora. “Bonnee never complains, and she has such a fighting spirit.”

“I feel really happy I can help someone who really needs my help,” Leonora adds. “I will always go above and beyond my duties as a PSW, because the clients really appreciate the care and support.”