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Senior Care in Action: Art Cooper

This has been happening for more than 40 years. Every six to eight weeks, Art Cooper gets a trim at Joseph and Rocky's barber shop, not far from his Downsview home. But for the last few years, going to the barber shop is the only time that Cooper, almost 91 and with advanced Alzheimer's disease, allows himself to be taken outside his home. Otherwise he balks if someone tries to lead him to the front door, becoming upset and anxious, according to his son, Toronto Star photographer Dave Cooper.

"His home is where he's happy, he's safe, he's comfortable and he's not as confused," says his son.

Art Cooper's home is his sanctuary because of the 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week home care Dave Cooper has arranged for his father.

Added to the 15 hours a week of care provided by Preferred Health Care Inc. - the maximum paid for by the province - is a five-person team of Personal Support Workers from Downsview Services for Seniors. They care for his father during daytime and nighttime shifts.

The heart of the team is Pina, a former neighbour, who has worked 40-hour weeks in the Cooper home for seven years now. Her husband, Danny, is retired. He helps out one day a week maintaining the garden and doing any repairs that are needed.

From his father's savings, Cooper pays about $7,500 a month to keep him at home. Thankfully, his parents were very frugal, he says with a laugh, and saved much of their salaries; today, he can afford to provide his dad with the proper senior care he requires. His father taught math at Ryerson University; his mother, who died last year, was a librarian.

"They were homebodies," says Dave Cooper. "Their idea of a good time was to stay home and read."

And so when he recently got a call from a staff person at a nursing home he and his sister had considered for their parents, telling him that there was - finally - a vacancy, Cooper declined the offer.

He knows many people with Alzheimer's disease suffer a rapid decline if removed from their familiar surroundings; he knows his father is safe in his own home - and happy.

"But he couldn't stay without the people from Downsview Services for Seniors," he says. "They've been a godsend."
 

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