A touch of humanity to keep seniors at home

(Quebec) Don’t talk to Guy Trotier about leaving his home. Like the vast majority of seniors, he wants to live at home as long as possible. Here, in this building that he has lived in for more than 25 years, in the heart of the Saint-Roch district, in Quebec.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

But during a stay in the hospital for a day’s operation on his gallbladder, two women showed up at his bedside. Very quickly, he understood: “I think you want to place me,” he told them, defiantly.

No way ! And he returned home.

” I am well. I don’t want to go anywhere else,” the 87-year-old man tells me, suddenly getting up from his chair, proud to show me the strength of his legs.

If Guy Trotier has regained his strength, if he manages to live alone at home, it is in large part thanks to Marie-Josée Girard, who works as a “navigator” at the Basse-Ville Friendly Service, a valuable role which would benefit from spread across Quebec.

It was she who untangled his tax papers to provide the information necessary for him to keep his low rent that was being threatened with being taken away.

She was the one who signed him up for a Meals on Wheels service that delivers meals to him five days a week, so that he can eat better.

It was also Marie-Josée Girard who accelerated the process for him to consult a physiotherapist. Since then, he has been doing “squats” while washing dishes. When leaning on the sink, he must bend his knees. After three sets of ten, the plates are clean and the thighs regain tone.


Marie-Josée Girard, navigator at the Basse-Ville Friendly Service, Michel Hamelin, president of the organization’s board, and Marie-Ève ​​Carpinteri, navigator

“Walking, I have less and less difficulty,” confirms Guy Trotier, who now manages to go out, with his walker, to go to the grocery store and get some fresh air.

We are far from the trembling man who fell out of his bed.

“I was trying to cover it up,” he admits, blaming his pride. But the alarm signals have not escaped the meal delivery man who plays the role of “sentinel”.

The “sentinels” and the “navigators” are the two key roles of an innovative formula of social geriatrics launched by an extraordinary doctor, Dr.r Stéphane Lemire (see other text).

The Friendly Service, which has been providing home help for 45 years in Lower Town Quebec, served as an incubator, in a way. Today, there are six social geriatrics projects throughout Quebec. Soon, there will be 20, announced the Minister responsible for Seniors, Sonia Bélanger, who presented, two weeks ago, a plan of around a hundred measures to deal with the aging of the population⁠1.

So much the better ! Because social geriatrics works small miracles.

The AGES du D Foundationr Lemire has trained some 6,000 sentinels to spot abnormal signs of aging in seniors and alert navigators who can then support seniors.

This is how Marie-Josée Girard found a family doctor for Pierrette Bergeron, who welcomes us with a rather alert step into her apartment. “Before, I tried to get up from my chair and I felt like a 90-year-old mother,” jokes the lady who is only 82.


Pierrette Bergeron is surrounded by Marie-Josée Latouche (left), family doctor at the Maizerets clinic, and Marie-Josée Girard, navigator at the Basse-Ville friendly service.

Mme Bergeron also had problems with her neighbors who complained that she was making too much noise. The navigator realized she was playing the television too loudly because of a hearing problem.

To get her to turn down the volume, she first lent her a voice amplifier that she placed on her ears. Then she convinced her to see a specialist who made her hearing aids.

At first, Pierrette Bergeron was reluctant. “I had some when I was younger and I found them so heavy that I threw them away,” the lady explains to me, while the navigator takes the opportunity to take care of her faulty phone.

All these little gestures make a big difference. If people have trouble hearing, if their phone is broken, it’s very difficult to get appropriate care.

By building trust with elders and being attentive to their overall environment, navigators often find simple solutions that defuse problems.

“Services currently are not configured to really meet the needs of the person, but to deal with a problem x which is supposed to be resolved quickly with just a pill,” laments Marie-Josée Girard.

Social geriatrics serves as a link between seniors and the health system. It is the link in a network which has many faults.

“I am worried,” says Marie-Josée Latouche, among the too few family doctors who devote themselves to home visits to vulnerable patients. Are we able to serve this entire aging population who will need services? »

For her, social geriatrics can take over when medicine reaches its limits, sometimes for trivial reasons. “If I turn to social geriatrics, I have an excellent answer. And I don’t know where else I would look for that answer,” she says.


Marie-Josée Latouche is one of the too few family doctors who devote herself to home visits to vulnerable patients.

For one of her patients, for example, the doctor had not been able to obtain blood tests for years, which prevented her from following up important illnesses.

“She was afraid of injections,” explains the navigator, Marie-Josée Girard, who took matters into her own hands. By securing the patient, she managed to take a first blood test with a very patient nurse. Subsequently, she accompanied the lady to a sampling center who ended up saying: “It went well, I could come back here by myself.” »

Since then, the doctor has been able to provide adequate follow-up.

This shows that seniors sometimes need advanced health care to stay in shape. But often, they just need a touch of humanity to maintain their autonomy.

1 Consult the 2024-2029 government action plan

Allies for seniors

Social geriatrics

The AGES Foundation, founded in Quebec 10 years ago, has developed a social geriatrics model based on the training of “sentinels” and “navigators” from the community environment.


These are workers or volunteers who already offer services (e.g.: cleaning, meals) to seniors. Their role is to detect abnormal signs of aging and warn a browser.


Armed with psychosocial background (e.g.: social work technicians, psychoeducators), navigators build a bond of trust with seniors, make structured observations and find solutions or resources to help them.



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