by Jacky Habib in Toronto 

Joyce Chan suspected something was wrong with her husband when he started losing his way to their local Tim Hortons five years ago.

“Instead of walking south, hed walk north and get lost. I would have to go out and look for him,” Chan, 77, recalls, about her 82-year-old husband, Peter. She says he lost his way one day when they decided to go out for lunch. “We didnt know where he was, but he had walked home by himself. He fell down quite a few times.” 

Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, a type of dementia with symptoms including a decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills and a gradual loss in ability to carry out daily activities. 

Over 700,000 Canadians live with Alzheimers and other dementias. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, for every person with the disease, two or more family members provide care. 

The diagnosis has taken a toll on Chan, who is Peters main caregiver. He has been on a waiting list for the last year to receive long-term care. The couple immigrated to Canada 48 years ago and have one adult son whom they seldom lean on for support because of his busy schedule. 

“Its not easy. Back home in Hong Kong, we have lots of relatives ... I can call them [for support],” says Chan. “We have been here so long and we have friends, but everyone has their own family and their own problems.” 

Reverting to native language, reliving trauma 

Sharon Tong, the support and education coordinator at the Vancouver Chinese Resource Centre (VCRC), says many of the seniors she works with came to Canada through sponsorship and this impacts the dynamic they have with their children. 

Elderly parents often insist they can manage themselves and are not forthcoming with their children about their needs, she explains. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network."[/quote]

“They dont want to put an extra burden on their children, but they dont have a social network, because a lot of their social networks are still in their hometown,” she says. 

The VCRC is an initiative of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. that began 20 years ago. The centre provides educational workshops in Cantonese and Mandarin as well as personal support and support groups for people with dementia and caregivers.  

It has filled a gap for people who struggle to find services in their native language.  

Ekta Hattangady, a social worker at the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, says losing the ability to speak English is a unique challenge for immigrants with dementia. 

“A lot of people revert to their first language,” Hattangady says. “The services that are available to them last year are no longer suitable to them because they no longer speak English.” 

The Alzheimer Society offers information in various languages as well as counselling with an interpreter. The most commonly requested languages are Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic and Cantonese. 

Another challenge with declining memory is that people recall old memories, which can be especially difficult if they have suffered trauma. 

To deal with this trauma, Hattangady sometimes recommends attending programs or listening to familiar music, which has proven to decrease isolation and boost the cognitive processes of patients. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A lot of people revert to their first language.”[/quote]

Accessing culturally specific services 

For people with dementia who are in need of long-term care, dietary restrictions such as eating halal or kosher food can also be a concern. 

This is where places like the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care come in. The centre was established in 1994 to serve the Chinese community. It now has four locations in the Greater Toronto Area serving several communities, including a dedicated unit for Japanese patients and another for South Asians. 

The Yee Hong Centre incorporates culture in all aspects of service delivery, from the food it serves to the staff on site, who speak the same languages as the patients. 

“When [patients] talk about home, they are talking about home in a small town in eastern China or a village in India,” says Yee Hong's CEO Eric Hong. “They may not realize theyre in Canada. Our programs cater to that so they feel theyre in familiar grounds and dont get anxious.” Cultural music and newspapers at the centre contribute to this atmosphere, he adds. 

Hong explains that the Centre also provides health care that is conscious of peoples experiences and expectations. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.”[/quote]

“Health-care [in Canada] isnt as straightforward as people expect it to be. Even if [immigrants] get services here, sometimes they are not tuned into what a person of colour may want.” 

This includes addressing different perspectives on what constitutes healthy behaviour, and the relationship between a health practitioner and patient, he explains. 

Caregivers face challenges also 

Isolation is another common experience of people dealing with dementia and their caregivers.

Chan shares the difficulty in caring for her husband who she says has not been the same since his dementia has progressed. She says Peter was sharp, intelligent and had a decent build, but is now skinny, weak and needs help with tasks like using the microwave. 

Although hes a quiet person who doesnt converse with her much, Chan says when he gets sick, he screams at night and its tough to handle on her own. 

“I count my blessings every day,” she shares. “I like to play Sudoku and to watch TV and to listen to music, otherwise I will be very depressed. Ive got to keep up my spirits. I have to set an example for my husband. If I dont think positive, hell be worse.” 

Editor’s Note: Joyce and Peter Chan are pseudonyms as the couple did not want to be identified. 


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Published in Health
Monday, 16 November 2015 01:22

Saving With RESPs Not Un-Islamic

by Sukaina Jaffer in Toronto

Hussin Masaud, originally from Iraq, has resided in Canada for over 26 years. A father of three, he attests to having Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) for all of his kids, who are 14, 11 and nine. 

“It is important to have funds for their future education,” says Masaud, a supervisor for a clothing company. 

For many new immigrants, moving to Canada comes with the hope of starting a new life filled with dreams of a better future for their children. 

One of the ways parents can save for their child’s post-secondary education is by opening up an RESP, which is an education savings account that is registered with the government of Canada.

Financial institutions (banks or credit unions), certified financial planners and group plan dealers all offer RESP options to their clients.

Masaud opened accounts for his kids with Knowledge First Financial (KFF) after a friend of his told him about the organization.

According to Masaud, it was relatively easy for him to open the accounts as a KFF representative came to his home and explained the whole process to him, which enabled him to proceed forward.

Difficulties of saving

Not all parents are able to maintain an RESP for their children, however. 

Haadi Al-Jawaad (whose name has been changed for privacy reasons) moved from Iraq to Canada in 1991 and worked in the construction business for a long time before retiring. 

In 1992, he opened up RESPs for his five children with the Royal Bank of Canada and used to make monthly contributions. Unfortunately, after two years he had to close the accounts. 

“I regret it, but the circumstances didn’t allow me to continue,” he explains in an e-mail to New Canadian Media. “I needed the money for my business. However, I wish I had [strove] to keep the accounts even if I made small contributions.” 

Al-Jawaad adds that an RESP is crucial as, “It gives importance to the children’s education and makes them strive towards their education. It’s also a saving account so money is being saved for the benefit of the family as a whole.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I regret it, but the circumstances didn’t allow me to continue."[/quote]

His five children grew up and all of them had to take yearly Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans in order to pay for their education. 

Two of his sons ended up going to college, two daughters attended university and one son did one year of university before taking private courses. Al-Jawaad’s children all had to find part-time jobs in order to pay for their loans as well as cover their own personal expenses. 

Many families like Al-Jawaad’s may miss out on opportunities like the RESP due to financial struggles when trying to fulfill family expenses of food, shelter and clothing. 

For low-income families, however, it’s possible to get up to $2,000 via the Canada Learning Bond for a child’s education just by opening an RESP — before even contributing any money toward it. 

Misunderstandings of RESPs and Islam

There is often a lack of information or misinformation that prevents people from investing in RESPs. 

Professor Imam Syed B. Soharwardy is president of the Calgary-based Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, which has chapters across Canada and caters to over 10,000 members ranging from South Asian, Arab and African heritage.

Soharwardy mentions that many imams – religious leaders of mosques – are misinformed about RESPs and need to be educated about them. 

He mentions that many Muslims think RESPs are prohibited because of “Riba,” an Islamic term for interest charged on loans, which is not permissible in Islam. 

He says that the RESP is in fact “Halal” — meaning legal — and people should take part in them. 

“It is our right to receive benefits provided by the Canadian government as we are also paying taxes in this country,” he states. 

He adds, “We should take part in [RESPs], but we must know how to invest in them.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]He says that the RESP is in fact “Halal.”[/quote]

Atta Hussain, a trustee of Al-Hussain Foundation in Markham, Ont., which serves thousands of people from the Middle Eastern community in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), as well as the India-Pakistan region, mentions that his centre does not promote RESPs only due to a lack of staff and resources. He hopes in the future to be able to spread awareness of RESPs amongst his congregation.

According to Soharwardy, RESPs must be chosen carefully when coupled with other investments in order to ensure the decision is in line with Islam. For example, a person should choose an RESP with mutual funds, but not one with Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) because these deal with interest, which is not permissible in Islam.

With more understanding of people’s religious and cultural make ups, it would be possible for even more people to take advantage of RESPs for their children including those from the Arab Canadian community. 

Anver Jaffer, a sales representative with Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan (CST) Consultants (a non-profit foundation) for over 18 years, emphasizes the importance of this.

“It is never too early to start saving for a child’s future as post-secondary education will help children to succeed.”


 Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

This is the fourth in a five-part education series (click for part onepart two and part three) on New Canadian Media looking at the experiences of different families with saving for education in Canada. November is Financial Literacy month across Canada and November 15 - 21 is Education Savings Week.  

Visit SmartSAVER.org to learn more about Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) and to start an RESP with your choice of six major banks and credit unions. RESP information is available in 16 languages. Apply online between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015 and you will automatically be entered to win one of nine $1,000 weekly prizes! Learn more here 

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Published in Education

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved