Skip to main content

Grace Dart Foundation gifts boost care for Montreal’s elderly

Thanks to three donations from the Grace Dart Foundation, three new McGill initiatives are underway to support the health and well-being of the city’s senior citizens.

Doctor meeting with a patient

At a time when the pandemic has highlighted the pressing needs of our elderly population, the Grace Dart Foundation has donated a total of $885,000 to support three diverse McGill initiatives, all dedicated to improving the lives of Montreal’s seniors.

Over the past 15 months, the Foundation has made gifts of $300,000 to The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) to support a spine care program, $335,000 to the Faculty of Dentistry to support home-based dental care, and $250,000 to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Dementia Education Program to fund the creation, publication and translation into multiple languages of an education booklet for people diagnosed with dementia and their care partners.

“The Foundation works at different levels to improve the wellbeing of the elderly in the Greater Montreal region,” says Elise Nesbitt, President and Chair of the Grace Dart Foundation’s Board of Directors.  “We support existing long-term care facilities and programs, we support grassroots organizations that provide home care, and we also look at research or education- oriented projects that directly help the elderly. We saw some great things happening at McGill and that’s why we funded these three initiatives.”

At The Neuro, a gift of $300,000 over two years is helping to bring home care and assessment to seniors suffering from spine pain. Together, The Neuro and CareAxis, a non-profit organization affiliated with The Neuro which partners with physiotherapists, established the Neuro-CareAxis Program for Seniors.

“The support from the Foundation will help create a virtual care module enabling community-based physiotherapists, trained by surgeons at The Neuro, to perform telemedicine assessments and follow-ups,” says Dr. Carlo Santaguida, a spine neurosurgeon at the Neuro, and Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of CareAxis. “The gift will also support online exercise plans and a pilot program to bring virtual and home assessments to seniors suffering from spine pain, as well as a follow-up service to improve the quality of care for elderly patients who cannot visit a community clinic.”

Meanwhile, at the Faculty of Dentistry, a gift of $335,000 (over two years) is the catalyst for a new mobile dentistry service providing oral health care to seniors in their homes, in cases where lack of mobility, financial constraints, or other factors preclude regular dentist visits. Appropriately dubbed “Dent Ma Maison”, the program will be offered in the central West and South regions of Montreal where some 17 per cent of citizens are 65 years old and older.

“We will be working closely with CIUSSS Centre-Sud and Ouest [integrated health and social services centres], enhancing existing programs of home services available to the elderly,” says Dr. Sandra Verdon, program director for the Faculty of Dentistry. “CIUSSS social workers will identify patients in need of our services and our mobile dental unit team – myself along with a student and/or resident – will conduct home visits to provide basic dental health care and instruction.”

Yet another timely initiative is taking place under the auspices of the Division of Geriatric Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, where the Foundation’s gift of $250,000 is funding a breakthrough publication entitled, “Dementia, Your Companion Guide”.

“Working with a team of multidisciplinary health care experts, including Dr. Serge Gauthier, a world-renowned neurologist who is overseeing the project, we’re developing a booklet to support people living with dementia and their caregivers that offers information on everything they need to know about the disease,” says Claire Webster, one of the project leaders and founder of the Dementia Education Program. Webster says the free booklet (set for launch this fall) will be translated into eight different languages to reach as many people as possible from different backgrounds and cultures. It will be distributed widely throughout the health care network and will be available to download online.

“This booklet is a valuable and unique resource for understanding the different types of dementias and how they will progress,” adds Dr. Serge Gauthier, Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Unit of the McGill University Research Centre for Studies in Aging.  “It provides information that will help a person living with dementia better understand and prepare for the changes to come, and offers caregivers advice on how to keep their loved ones safe as well as practice self-care.”

Together, the three gifts are indicative of the Foundation’s impact, not just at McGill, but across the Greater Montreal community through donations totalling $3.2 million in 2019-2020 to 44 organizations (including eight long-term care facilities) that serve the elderly. It’s a commitment inspired by the vision of Henry Dart, a Montreal pharmacist and philanthropist, who founded the Grace Dart Hospital in the early 1900s in honour of his daughter, Grace, who died of tuberculosis.

“It’s was really important for us to continue what the founders wanted to do, which was to help the elderly in the community,” says Nesbitt. “We want to be a collaborative community Foundation and we’re proud to support these McGill initiatives which reflect our mission.”