A passion for working with the elderly

Ray Cassel assists Father-Dowd resident Joan Oliver during a game of bean bag toss.
Ray Cassel assists Father-Dowd resident Joan Oliver during a game of bean bag toss.

Ray Cassel

Recreational Therapist, Father-Dowd Residential Centre

Walking through the halls of the Father-Dowd Residential Centre, you can’t help but notice the posters of the many activities available to residents. Discussions about nature, Movie Night, bean bag toss, bingo, volleyball, you name it! Recreational Therapist Ray Cassel believes that all residents can benefit from recreational therapy. “I never give up on anybody,” he says. “I let them know that there is nothing they can’t do.”

Mr. Cassel has created a program built on that very premise, offering a variety of activities to attract the greatest number of participants. To keep his program fresh and timely, he also introduces seasonal activities such as summer games on the outdoor terrace and holiday parties.

Always alert to the needs and interests of the residents, Mr. Cassel has his work down to a science. Yet he never neglects to bring in a good dose of laughter. “I believe in humour therapy,” he says. “I am always cracking jokes with the residents!”

Mr. Cassel is undeterred by the biggest challenge of his job—motivating new residents to take part in activities. “For many people, when they move to a long-term care facility they are distraught, because they don’t want to live in an unfamiliar place,” explains Mr. Cassel. “My approach is gentle and gradual. First, I get them to come to the sing-alongs, then to the more lively physical activities.”  Some residents insist that they cannot take part because of physical limitations, but Mr. Cassel takes pains to creatively adapt each activity to the physical and cognitive needs of the residents. If a person cannot stand, he will design the activity to accommodate chairs and wheelchairs. During a volleyball game, for instance, everyone is seated and plays with a beach ball that is light enough to pass around. “It’s important to me that every Father-Dowd resident takes part in the recreational activities, so I offer the residents constant positive reinforcement. I always tell them, ‘you can do it, I’ll help you’.”

Resident Joan Oliver attests to Mr. Cassel’s tenacity. “Ray’s a hard worker,” she says. “There is never a dull moment, we do something fun every day!”

Mr. Cassel began working at Father-Dowd in the kitchen while a student in high school. He says that he cares for the residents as though they are family. On October 5, Mr. Cassel celebrated a milestone—his 40th work anniversary at the Centre. “Since I began working at Father-Dowd, it has been my passion to work with the elderly. I love seniors, it’s my life!”

To nominate a member of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal staff who goes above and beyond the call of duty, contact Jennifer Timmons at jennifer.timmons.ccomtl@ssss.gouv.qc.ca.