Should a person suffering from dementia be systematically accompanied with adapted means of transport? The Société de transport de Laval bans a woman from traveling with her husband if she suffers from cognitive loss that confines the elderly couple to their apartment.
Updated at 5:00 yesterday.
“It is clear that if the gentleman loses his driver's license due to cognitive loss, he cannot take the paratransit alone. This is nonsense! », protests Marie-Josée Noël.
The woman looks after Yvon and Ghislaine Bourdon, a couple from Laval whose lives were turned upside down last September when the 92-year-old man's driver's license was revoked.
Like a growing number of older people, he was deemed fit to drive by his doctor after showing signs of cognitive loss.
On the recommendation of his treatment team, the nonagenarian applied for admission to paratransit in Laval, which was granted.
PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS
Mr. Bourdon, 92, was deemed unfit to drive last fall.
Because her husband suffers from short-term memory loss, Ghislaine Bourdon – who hasn't driven for a long time – asked to accompany him on his travels.
But the Laval Transport Service (STL) refused. The reason given? Mr. Bourdon does not suffer from a physical disability.
“According to the committee's assessment, the gentleman actually received adapted transport, but since he has no physical problems, he was not entitled to an accompaniment,” explains the general director of the Laval Transport Association adapted (ALTA), Annie Des Rosiers, in La Presse .
Ms. Des Rosiers knows the file very well, having accompanied the couple at every stage of their application for membership until it was sent to the STL, where a committee was responsible for the evaluation.
Consequence: The couple has been locked up at home for weeks. “They’re not going anywhere anymore. They order their groceries online. Mr Bourdon loved going to the mall and now he can't go there anymore,” laments Ms Noël.
“The obstacles on the way to paratransit only increase his fear and discomfort. »
Public transport as an alternative
Via email, Laval Transport Service states that it evaluates each request based on the Paratransit Eligibility Policy.
This was established by the Ministry of Transport and specifically provides that a user can appoint an accompanying person if the use of the service would otherwise be “impossible or unsafe”.
PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, THE PRESS
Ghislaine Bourdon travels with a walker, which makes access to public transportation difficult.
However, a disabled person is not entitled to be accompanied by an adapted means of transport if he or she can use public transport accompanied by another person.
“ [Le STL] told us that if the gentleman could use paratransit with his wife, he could probably use public transportation with her. The other option would be for the gentleman to travel using adapted means of transport and the lady to accompany him at the destination using traditional public transport,” explains Annie Des Rosiers.
Nonsense, says Marie-Josée Noël. 87-year-old Ghislaine Bourdon uses a walker. “She is unable to use public transportation,” she said.
More and more cases
Annie Des Rosiers shares the couple's “frustration” and “dismay”. The simple diagnosis of a cognitive disorder “should be enough to establish the right to an accompanying person” during paratransit, she argues.
In his eyes, the Department of Transport shows “a certain lack of understanding of cognitive impairments and the challenges that these impairments can pose for older people”.
The disorganization that can arise from using regular public transportation [l’achalandage, les mouvements, le bruit, la présence d’usagers de tous âges] causes headaches for those affected and their carers.
Annie Des Rosiers, General Director of the Laval Adapted Transport Association
The effort is all the more important as his association is dealing with “more and more cases of requests for seniors with cognitive disorders” in view of the increasing aging of the population.
A meeting with the STL is also planned in February to discuss these specific cases, she says.
By email, the Ministry of Transport points out that “the decision on the type of support in each individual case is made by the admissions committee, which must reassess the type of support if the user's situation changes and justifies it.”
It is also recalled that a person who feels aggrieved by a decision regarding their paratransit eligibility may request “a review by the Paratransit Eligibility Review Office.”
What is Paratransit?
Paratransit is a door-to-door travel service for people with disabilities. To be eligible, you must be able to demonstrate mobility limitations, such as the inability to walk 400 meters or orient yourself in time and space. The government-supervised service is provided by public transport companies and municipalities.