Monday, February 1, 2016

How difficult could caregiving be? This sister found out

By Louise Kinross

I caught part of this excellent interview on CBC's The Current this morning.

It's about Helen Ries's journey as an Ottawa woman who took over care of her adult brother Paul, who has Down syndrome. Paul, who works delivering mail at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., moved in with Helen and her husband after their mother died in January 2015.

Helen's built this amazing website aimed at developing a community of friends and family around her brother so that he can lead a rich life.

She documents her first year as his primary caregiver here in what she calls a failure report.

"I assumed that if I could take a few months off of my full-time work to organize supports, I could sort out our finances and apply to increase my brother's government funding, then hire a few people to help out," she writes. "Everything would be sorted out and I could get back to life as it was in about a year."

A year later, this MBA grad decided she had to resign from her job with the Ontario government. "As one other sister told me, it took her YEARS, yes that is right, years to right herself after becoming the sole caregiver of her brother."

On CBC, Helen talked about how damaging the assessment for supports was to Paul, two days focused on "what Paul cannot do" that led him to self-harm.

She also noted that money her parents had set aside in a Henson Trust can't be accessed because of limits imposed by the Ontario Disability Support Program.

Meanwhile, Paul hasn't been able to get an increase in Passport funding through Ontario's Ministry of Community and Social Services.

"I thought given his situation was truly a crisis he would qualify for some additional Passport funds so I could hire people to support Paul in his daily life," she told CBC.

Take a listen. Or send Helen a tweet


If the money was left in a Henson Trust then that money does not count against ODSP. There is a wonderful Lawyer Brendan Pooran in the Toronto area and I'm sure he can confirm for you that you can indeed use those funds to meet your brothers needs. Brendan's website is