Seniors’ Month turns 32 this year


2016 marks the 32nd anniversary of Seniors’ Month, which recognizes the important role seniors play in our communities.  This year’s theme is “Seniors Making a Difference.”

Seniors in Canada are living longer and healthier lives than previous generations. In 2014, over 6 million Canadians were aged 65 or older, representing 15.6 percent of Canada’s population. By 2030—in less than two decades—seniors will number over 9.5 million and make up 23 percent of Canadians. Additionally, by 2036, the average life expectancy at birth for women will rise to 86.2 years from the current 84.2 and to 82.9 years from the current 80 for men.

While many seniors lead fulfilling lives without significant physical or cognitive changes, aging can be debilitating. Physical ailments, mobility issues, chronic pain, cognitive and sensory impairments can affect one’s functional ability. Other challenges such as retirement, changes in income, widowhood, the loss of friendships through death, and new caregiving responsibilities can lead to social and emotional isolation. Research indicates that promoting and maintaining mental health among seniors has a positive impact on their overall health and well-being and significantly affects quality of life.

In 2011, 92 percent of seniors in Canada lived in a private home. Recent Government of Canada investments in affordable and social housing, age-friendly communities, support for caregivers and programs to combat homelessness are helping seniors stay in their own homes and remain physically and socially active.

Many communities have services just for seniors. These include:

  • adult day programs – including social, fitness and other healthy activities;
  • transportation services – for people who don’t have public transportation or need help to use it;
  • community hospice services – including counselling, support groups, yoga and art classes, grief support;
  • residential hospices – where end-of-life care is provided in a home-like environment for those who can no longer stay in their own homes. People in residential hospices receive a wide range of palliative services to keep them comfortable.

SEIU Healthcare is proud of our members who support and assist our senior citizens and we wish everyone a happy Seniors’ Month.


Musical Memories

Over the weekend I spent some time with the eldest member of the family- our grandmother. At 87 years, parts of her memory have naturally faded to the point where she is vigilant, but mostly discreet in her actions. On the other side of the couch, was my 8 year old niece: chatty, active and showing us the latest video she liked on YouTube.

This interesting dichotomy reminded me of an article I had come across on the impact of jazz music on people with Alzheimer’s. The article states that:

“Anything you are emotionally attached to can affect the brain,” Tanzi said. “Music memory can activate the brain. In a nursing home, you might see a moderate-to-advanced Alzheimer’s patient suddenly at the piano playing music and singing, even if they haven’t uttered a sentence in weeks….The pathology goes all around the music memories areas, but doesn’t touch them,” he said. “The best way to activate music memory is with the music you love the most.”

Music can indeed be a magical remedy for a tough day, the treatment for a loss, the elixir to a celebration, so it’s no surprise that we can reinvigorate someone’s mind and spirit through the power of music. But the impact that “music memory” practitioner’s provides is nevertheless fascinating.

Do you have any experience utilizing music with Alzheimer’s patients, or as a form of therapy? Please share your experience with us!

By: Shilpa R. Sharma

PSWs Are ‘Angels In The Fog’

Meet Bianca. She has a 75-year old father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. A growing number of his memories are lost in a fog which he can’t remember or locate anymore. That’s why Bianca is happy to know he is being cared for by a highly qualified team of Personal Support Workers (PSW)s to look after his daily needs in a nursing home located in a small community north of Toronto.

“They are there because they care.”

“The PSWs who care for him are always so friendly,” said Bianca. “They take their time with him, even though their conversations aren’t that coherent. Every PSW I have come across is genuine. They are there because they care. They always say hello to him. They always let me know how he is doing.”

Her father seems to be happy with the care he is receiving from the PSWs at the nursing home. He has a good rapport with them and has grown very close to them. She can tell just by the way he speaks and interacts with them.

Her father always loved music and especially dancing. One day, when the stereo system was playing some Motown music, he began to dance. A staff member took some photos and mailed them to Bianca. She posted the pictures on her fridge to remind her that he is being cared for by qualified healthcare professionals. He can still find little snippets of happiness in a world that is very confusing for him.

When she visits him, she watches the PSWs walk by and say hello. Everyone is very patient and it’s their second nature to acknowledge every resident.

“PSWs do this job with heart,” she added. “Anyone can walk into a job and just show up for a pay cheque. But PSWs are different. They do it because they enjoy their job. They come to work with love, care and compassion for their residents. It’s my biggest blessing.”

If you have an interesting story to share about a PSW, share your story on


This job isn’t for everyone – our Heroes of Homecare


Ontarians depend on the support our Personal Support Workers (PSWs) provide every day. We want everyone to understand the skilled care, love and compassion they provide.

This job isn’t for everyone; it takes a special kind of person to do their job. They are our Heroes of Homecare. Our healthcare system couldn’t operate without them. That’s why we’re asking those who receive care from a PSW and your families to tell us how your PSW helps you retain your independence in your own home and why this is important to you.

It’s easy – just visit our website and tell us your homecare story in your own words. #RiseForHomecare

Heroes of Homecare


I became a PSW to help seniors stay in their home as long as they could. To give dignity and kindness and love. So many seniors fall through the cracks because they have no one to help, or family, or they are too proud to ask. I try to make their day good and happy, and make them feel good about themselves.

Giselle Ralph, PSW

I love helping people who can’t help themselves. To be able to earn the trust of your clients even when everything around them seems to be disappearing such as their spouse, health or independence is a great gift.

Darla Fiset, PSW

Is there a special Nurse in the house?

For the 15th year, the Toronto Star is honouring the nursing profession with a call for nominations for the Nightingale Award.  We know all nurses deserve recognition for the selfless work they do, but this year, let’s make it an SEIU Healthcare member!

In order to nominate that special nurse, you will need to provide the following info:

  • The first and last name of the nurse
  • Your name and daytime telephone number
  • Workplace of the nurse (specify which hospital, ward, healthcare location, department or organization) where the care or association with the nurse took place
  • Approximate dates of care provided (must be between Jan 1, 2015 and Feb 29, 2016)
  • Your relationship to the nurse (patient, patient’s family member, co-worker, etc.)

Provide a personal account in 250-500 words, explaining why this nurse deserves to be recognized with the Nightingale Award. This may include a description of his/her qualities, care of the patient, specific examples of the nurse’s efforts and dedication and the difference he/she has made in your life or the lives of others. The nurse must be registered with the College of Nurses of Ontario and may not be nominated by a member of their own family.

If you know an extraordinary example of the nursing profession, please send your nomination no later than March 16, 2016 to:

Nightingale Award Nomination
One Yonge Street, 5th Floor
Toronto, ON  M5E 1E6

Or submit online.


Looking out for LGBTQ in the labour movement

Sebastian Trujillo recently became the first official representative of the LGBTQ community on the executive board of SEIU Healthcare, the healthcare union representing 55,000 working in Ontario’s hospitals, long-term care homes, and homecare agencies.

Seb, as they like to be called for short, was born in Mexico and came to Canada in 2001.

“It feels awesome,” says Seb about representing the LGBTQ community with the union. “I became a member steward four years ago…they gave me training. One thing led to another.”

Seb tells us a bit about coming out…twice, Seb laughs.

Sebastian and Premier Wynne

“I was open as a lesbian. Almost a year ago I decided to come out of the closet for the second time as I call it, because one was not enough.”

Seb recently came out as a proud trans man.

“At Mount Sinai [where Seb works as a mail room clerk] I felt confident talking to my co-workers but I needed supervisors and HR to be trained on what trans means and which pronouns I want them to use. They were very respectful of everything.”

Before, Mount Sinai didn’t have any bathrooms, lockers, or showers for trans people. Seb is happy to reveal that they recently made that change – it took them just two months. In total, 5 people are using the new facilities.

At the Convention where Sebastian was recently elected LGBTQ rep, he presented Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne with a thank-you gift for coming to speak to the 500 attendees.

The Premier spoke about the need to transform the healthcare system and praised the healthcare workers that make it all possible – cooking, cleaning, caring, and holding the hands of our family and friends during some of the most difficult times in our lives. It was the second time Seb had met her.

“We usually do the 5k run for pride and she’s always there. Having people in the LGBT community in these positions where they can help our community is amazing. People can see she’s a normal person and part of the community.”

Seb’s position as mail room clerk at Mount Sinai requires them to interact with everyone. “I talk to everyone in this hospital, I deliver their mail and lab reports, I go in and out of every single department. It gives me a chance to talk to all our members.”

Seb has a 2-year-old, Gavriel, and took time off last year to spend with their wife and son before returning to work at Mount Sinai.

Stepping up for her co-workers

Marlene experienced remarkable emotional cruelty at work when she got some terrible news about a co-worker.

An administrator for the long-term care home where she works east of Oshawa was rude and dismissive about it, and didn’t allow the staff to discuss it, or give them the time or space they needed to process.

That’s when Marlene decided to become a union steward. She stepped up for her co-workers and provides them with representation and support, especially when traumatic events happen at work.

Marlene at work

Marlene lives with her husband and two daughters (12 and 17) and has worked as a personal support worker (PSW) for 23 years.

She’s attending SEIU Healthcare’s Convention this week (November 15-18) in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Together with 400 other healthcare workers from across the province, she will learn about union engagement and the union’s priorities and direction for the next four years.

Leadership matters

“I’m excited. It’s my first Convention. I’m going to further my education, and to learn more about the union so I can benefit the members at my facility.”

When she’s not busy with work at the long-term care home, taking care of her fellow union members, and spending time with her family, Marlene loves to sew, and wanted to prepare lots of different things for Convention.

“I even made three new nightgowns,” she laughs.