Living with multiple health challenges: Sharon’s Story

A mental health activist, Sharon receives support for her physical and mental health needs at LOFT’s Pelham Park Gardens Supported Housing program.

Sharon has been living at Pelham Park Gardens, a Toronto Community Housing (TCH) site for more than 30 years. An advocate for mental health, she once worked with an agency in order to help people with disabilities. Unfortunately, living at TCH doesn’t ensure that she has on-site resources to support her own physical and mental health needs.

Sharon suffers from numerous challenges, including diabetes, arthritis, hearing difficulties, bipolar disorder, depression and a learning disability. As she started to age, managing these conditions on her own with only occasional support from her family became extremely difficult. 

In 2015, we launched a supported housing program for older adults and seniors living in Sharon’s building. This program connects TCH residents with everyday living needs like medications, meal prep and housekeeping, and to one-on-one support of mental health and addiction needs and social activities.

LOFT’s team worked with Sharon in order to develop a strong relationship. They connected with her daily, making themselves available to assist her in her needs. Her Case Manager, Allan George, set her on the path to improving her quality of life.

Allan worked with Sharon to define goals, helping her to declutter her home and strengthen her approach to health care. Due to her learning disability, Sharon often missed her medical appointments. Allan started to give her reminders, and ensured that Sharon would have the paperwork and transportation necessary in order to make her appointments a success. 

His gentle reminders and words of encouragement soon became a natural part of Sharon’s life. She developed a routine that helped her stay on top of her health needs. A very social person, Sharon received support with her taxes, joined a monthly senior shopping program, and began to engage with other tenants during social activities planned by LOFT. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on Sharon’s life. While receiving treatment for an injury incurred in a serious fall, she contracted the virus. During the nearly three months Sharon spent in hospital, Allan phoned her regularly in order to check on her progress and share messages of hope. When she returned home, Allan worked with her hospital discharge team and advocated for her care. Realizing that she was having difficulty living independently, he secured a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist to assist her, as well as a Personal Support Worker who visits Sharon twice a day. Allan is also working with Toronto Community House to ensure Sharon can move to an accessible unit.

Sharon recently received the COVID-19 vaccine through one of LOFT’s community partners’ vaccination clinics. She is eager to receive her second dose whenever it is available.

As much as she misses connecting with friends in her building, she appreciates the safety she feels at home. Sharon looks forward to better days when she’ll be able to participate in LOFT’s social activities again.