The team behind Les Aidants du Haut-Saint-Laurent is marking the non-profit organization’s 25th anniversary with a new name, a modern look, and a renewed mission. Known across the Valley for support services, workshops, and respite programs designed to help caregivers navigate caring for a loved one with a loss of autonomy, the Saint-Chrysostome-based organization has dropped the word “naturel” from its name to become simply Les Aidants du Haut-Saint-Laurent.
The move came about following a strategic planning exercise in 2020 that sparked a reflection on the organization’s name and image. Within the field, organizations were shifting away from terms such as “natural” or “informal” caregiver. “It is not ‘natural’ to have to take care of a parent or a partner,” says general director Julie Paquette. Becoming a caregiver can involve significant changes to lifestyle, identity, and roles within a relationship, and this transition can feel like an imposition and is often overwhelming.
“It is normal that you need help, and it is important that [caregivers] think of their own health,” says Esther Parenteau, a support worker with Les Aidants. “We want people to become proactive. It needs to become a reflex,” says Parenteau, noting that all too often people reach out to the organization when “they are on the edge of a burnout.”
Paquette says the need is growing for services that support caregivers, from the very beginning of their involvement with a loved one’s loss of autonomy to end-of-life care. “There are more seniors living at home. It has become a priority at the provincial level,” says Paquette, referring to the fact the Quebec government passed the Act to recognize and support caregivers in 2020, as well as an action plan that sets out the measures aimed at implementing the policy for caregivers.
For Parenteau, an important first step for those who are living with, or caring for, someone with a loss of autonomy is learning to recognize themselves as a caregiver. “It is not an easy job,” she admits, “but asking for help before you need it is important.” Les Aidants offers a range of bilingual services for Haut-Saint-Laurent residents, including workshops on grief, how to become a caregiver, how to accompany a loved one at the end of their life, as well as a drop-in café, respite care, and personalized support.
With the new name, the logo needed to be modernized as well. Communications agent Tara Koury, who is also a talented artist, was tasked with updating the concept and design of the organization’s look. “We wanted people to understand that people here feel at home, comfortable, and calm,” says Paquette of the new logo, which features the organization’s name in a soothing shade of blue with a prominent cursive letter A. “We are very happy with it,” says Paquette, who feels the new look will better suit the 25-year-old organization as it continues to grow.
The strategic planning exercise brought about a revision to the services offered, and it integrated aspects of telework following the pandemic. The organization has also released a new mission statement focused on the prevention of exhaustion, as well as on the provision of support and tools for caregivers to enable them to better exercise their role and improve their quality of life.
Having already supported hundreds of local caregivers in keeping their loved ones at home for as long as possible, Les Aidants is now looking to expand services in the coming years to include caregivers who are responsible for individuals with an intellectual or physical handicap.
Activities to mark the 25th anniversary of the organization will take place over the summer and into the fall. For more information on the services offered by Les Aidants du Haut-Saint-Laurent, visit their website (aidantshsl.org), Facebook page, or call 450 826-1243.