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Sylvie Lavoie, whose mother once lived at Bendale Acres, would like to see more French-language services available to francophone residents of long-term-care facilities in Toronto. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Sylvie Lavoie, whose mother once lived at Bendale Acres, would like to see more French-language services available to francophone residents of long-term-care facilities in Toronto. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

giving back

Restoring the lines of communication for francophone seniors Add to ...

The Donor: Sylvie Lavoie

The Gift: Creating the Hélène Tremblay Lavoie Foundation

The Reason: To help provide long-term care for francophones in Toronto

About five years ago, Sylvie Lavoie noticed a sudden change in her elderly mother, Hélène Tremblay Lavoie.

Once a constant chatterbox, Ms. Lavoie’s mother had gone quiet, communicating less and less with family and friends as dementia set in.

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“I just thought it was just, sort of, as you get old that’s what you do,” Ms. Lavoie said from her home in Toronto.

After a few medical tests, Ms. Lavoie discovered that her mother had reverted back to French, her mother tongue, and lost the ability to speak English.

It was a stunning revelation given that, while her mother was originally from Quebec, she had lived in Toronto for more than 30 years. As the dementia worsened, Ms. Lavoie tried to find a long-term-care facility in Toronto that could care for her mother in French. There was nothing available and she ended up in a home in Welland, Ont., that offered some French-language care.

She moved her mother later to Bendale Acres in the Scarborough area of Toronto, which has 37 beds for francophone residents and a limited French-speaking staff. She died there in 2010.

The struggle to find care for her mother in French led Ms. Lavoie to launch a charity to address the issue.

She notes that about 100,000 francophones live in Toronto but they have no dedicated long-term-care facility. “The hope is that Bendale Acres would at least be partially designated francophone,” she said.

The charity, called the Hélène Tremblay Lavoie Foundation, has held some high-profile events and has been meeting with representatives from all levels of government.

“The No. 1 objective is to sensitize the [francophone] population to start asking,” Ms. Lavoie said.

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PwaldieGLOBE

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