ST-LAZARE – Ann Gagnon is stuck in the fight of her life. Her sons, aged 12 and 16, are severely disabled and she desperately needs more help.
“I feel like we’re just a number on a piece of paper that’s the frustration,” said Gagnon.
“I think that nobody takes the time to come visit us and meet the kids and find out what’s going on.”
Gagnon is getting some assistance from her local CLSC. A babysitter comes to her house 16 hours a week to help bathe and feed both boys. But it’s clearly not enough.
“I’m a caretaker, I don’t even have the pleasure of being a mother half of the time,” said Gagnon.
“I get up in the morning, and as wonderful as my children are, they’re totally, totally dependent on me!”
Ann Gagnon and her son Kieran at the family home in Saint-Lazare. Jan. 27, 2014. David Sedell / Global News
Ann Gagnon and her son Kieran at the family home in Saint-Lazare. Jan. 27, 2014.
David Sedell / Global News
The St-Lazare family is tired of being told to keep waiting.
“They always answer we don’t have the budget for it, we don’t have the budget for it,” said the 48-year-old mother.
When Gagnon and her family first moved to St-Lazare eight years ago, she claims the CLSC promised her both her children were eligible for a total of 40 hours of help each week. But despite numerous complaints to the ombudsman, nothing has changed.
The local health agency refused our request for an interview but administrators admit there’s a problem, stating:
“The Vaudreuil-Soulanges CSSS currently has close to 350 clients with intellectual and physical disabilities, and autism. Our health care workers analyze every demand on a case-by-case basis. We establish priorities according to precise criteria and according to the programs available. Important delays for certain programs are due to a lack of resources and as a result certain families are unfortunately forced to wait.”
According to the CSSS, 85 per cent of families in the region are waiting for more services.
Knowing that they are not alone is little consolation to Gagnon and her family. To make matters worse, Gagnon was recently laid off from her job after 20 years of service with Bombardier.
Finding a new job with two disabled children is a big challenge.
“It’s very stressful, very stressful,” said Gagnon , who has tried to find extra help at her own expense.
“I put ads in the local newspaper, no one was answering” said Gagnon, holding back tears.
And finding adequate respite care close to home is a whole other battle.
“What scares me the most, they don’t talk, they used to go to a respite home where Bradley came home with a black eye. We never got a report, they never told us what happened. Then he went back a few months later and came back with three bites on his back, never got a report!” deplored Gagnon.
The family has been told that the next step is to a file complaint at the provincial level to try get the help they’re entitled to.
Gagnon insists despite the exhausting fight, that she’s not ready to give up.
“I always have hope, I always have hope that the more people talk, the more people share their experience at some point something’s gonna have to change!”