No help for Maison des Anges Blancs
By Nick Zacharias
PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS
In spite of efforts by the owner and pleas from residents, their families, nurses, and over 600 petitioners, Maison des Anges Blancs in Rigaud has been ordered to cease operations as a private residence for semi-autonomous seniors as of December 18.
As reported in The Journal on November 26, a small, private seniors’ residence in Rigaud called Maison des Anges Blancs has been ordered to cease operations, forcing residents and their families to scramble for new accommodations. The Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de la Montérégie-Centre (CISSS-MC) has imposed a December 18 deadline for residents to be out of the home. Owner Brenda Samson says it’s been impossible to meet CISSS requirements; the issues at stake are a certification she has but needs to update, and upgrades for some exterior doors. Both have proven difficult to address during the pandemic. Samson says she is on a waiting list for the certification but has no start date due to COVID-19.
Trying for change
Moved by the story in The Journal, Rigaud resident Joanne Ward decided to do something. She started a petition on Change.org, now up to over 600 signatures, to ask Soulanges MNA Marilyn Picard and the CISSS to consider the wishes and wellbeing of the residents, to avoid dangerous disruption in their lives, and grant Samson more time to get her renovations and recertification completed.
“I first posted about the story on a Facebook group in Rigaud,” said Ward, “and so many people said we should write our MNA and ask her for help. I decided it made sense to start a petition.”
Ward says she hasn’t done a lot of community activism. “It just struck a chord. My parents have passed, but my mother-in-law spent some time at the (CHSLD) Herron before all the terrible things happened there with COVID-19, and it just seemed crazy to shut down a nice, family-atmosphere place like this when the residents and their families would rather stay. And right in the middle of the pandemic when it could be dangerous for them to relocate, with short notice and a week before Christmas. It seems nuts.”
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/NICK ZACHARIAS
Frank Nagy, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and lives at Maison des Anges Blancs in Rigaud, gives residence owner Brenda Samson an affectionate embrace. The warm moment contrasts starkly with his daughter Kristina’s fears for his wellbeing when he’s forced to leave his caring environment.
Alternatives hard to find
Ward wrote in her letter that it seems larger residences have been allowed to remain open in spite of much longer and more serious lists of infractions. She also stressed that with the system currently under strain, finding alternative homes will prove difficult, especially ones where the residents can receive services in English. One of the alternatives on a list given to families was the CHSLD Herron in Dorval, itself shutting down while mired in a class action lawsuit and accusations of negligence after staff abandoned the facility during the COVID-19 outbreak in March-April, reportedly leading to dozens of deaths.
Moving against their will
While the four residents at the small home all said they want to stay, with the December 18 deadline now upon them, they’ve had to prepare to be pushed out. Ward says the families of the residents all got calls from the CISSS. “They said the tone was almost threatening; the CISSS told them if the residents aren’t out by Friday, ‘We’re coming to relocate them.’”
Two residents left the home this week; both are temporarily staying with family while they try to find new places to live with the level of care they need. Resident Frank Nagy has Alzheimer’s and his daughter Kristina has said he’d suffer immensely from the upheaval if he’s forced into solitary quarantine – dementia patients depend on routine and familiar people. Until Thursday, Samson says he’ll still be at the residence and after that he’ll move in with his daughter, even though she doesn’t feel her home is well suited for him, because she hasn’t been able to find a place that works.
Marilyn Picard declined a request for an interview, referring The Journal to the CISSS. The media office of the CISSS-MC responded from Longueuil to say, “La Maison des Anges Blancs will cease its activities as a private seniors’ residence… We assure you that support is provided to residents requiring relocation.”
Approved for lesser care
Andrew Dzurobka, the only fully autonomous resident, plans to stay with Samson as a private boarder after the deadline. Because he doesn’t need help like the others, Samson says they’ve received approval from a social worker at the CLSC to continue with their current arrangement. The question is how long she can survive forced down to one resident in a home that can accommodate nine. “I’ll try to find more residents, but it’s hard to do. People mostly are looking for more care, which I provide, but the government says I’m no longer allowed.”
The 600-plus signatories to the petition will be left to wonder why more couldn’t be done.
“I just don’t see why they have to force these people out in the middle of all of this,” says Ward, “instead of working with Samson, to help her meet their requirements so these people can stay where they’re safe and happy, where they want to be.”