Advocates for caregivers are hopeful the case of a Montreal man who killed his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife in what was described as an act of desperation, will shed some light on the plight of those struggling to care for relatives suffering from the disease.
Michel Cadotte was sentenced Tuesday to two years less a day in jail for the 2017 suffocation killing of his wife, Jocelyne Lizotte, 60, who was in a long-term care facility. A jury had found him guilty earlier this year of manslaughter. He had told the court he couldn’t handle watching her suffer.
The culmination of the case will hopefully alert the public to the daily struggles faced by primary caregivers, particularly those who are taking care of relatives stricken with Alzheimer’s, said Sylvie Grenier of the Quebec Federation of Alzheimer’s Societies.
Grenier, who testified for the defence at sentencing, said the Cadotte case highlights the fact that relatives caring for patients with the neurodegenerative disease need to be looked after as well.
“What the federation wants the public to retain from this, is all the distress faced by those who get the disease — the victim and their family,” Grenier said Wednesday. “We must support the person with the disease as well as all of those around them.”
In Quebec, an estimated 145,000 people are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s and it’s a number that’s expected to spike to 260,000 by 2025.
“We’re not ready for this,” said Grenier, adding that various agencies and groups are working to organize social and support services, medical care and day centres to deal with what she described as a “tsunami” of cases that are coming.
Cadotte’s sentence was merited and must be denounced, Grenier said. But, she added, the case reveals how family members caring for sick relatives often live in isolation.
“For those who are lucky enough not to deal with it, the impact of this disease is not something they can appreciate,” Grenier said. “They can’t understand the impact it can have on the level of distress in people.”
Melanie Perroux, co-ordinator of the Regroupement des Aidants Naturels Du Quebec — an organization that represents caregivers, said she hopes the Cadotte case gives people pause to consider how taxing caregiving can be.
“I think it shows us how we forget how complicated it is to take on this role and to be a caregiver on a daily basis,” Perroux said. “I really hope that within families where there are caregivers, people will stop to ask the principal caregiver: ‘How can I help you today? Can I do something for you?'”
Political reaction was muted in Quebec City Wednesday. Senior ministers assigned to health and to seniors did not want to comment on the matter.
Justice Minister Sonia LeBel wouldn’t comment directly on the Cadotte ruling because of the possibility of appeals.
“There’s probably a societal debate to be had,” LeBel told reporters. “We can talk about how this type of situation doesn’t arise again, because there’s a sad situation at its core, the judge highlighted that in her judgment.”
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