RIVERSIDE — Nearly 10 years ago, Karen (first names only used at request of the family), now 70, was involved in a car accident that forever changed her family’s life. She suffered a severe brain injury from the accident that left her with paralysis of both her arms and legs.
Her husband Patrick, 69, of Riverside, has been by her side, lovingly caring for her ever since. He feeds, bathes and changes his wife’s clothes. He moves her position from the bed to a recliner for some variety and as Karen sleeps in her bed in the living room, he sleeps beside her on the couch.
“She is my sweetheart,” he said.
Since 2007, Patrick has been working with CareBreaks, a program of the Diocese of Providence that offers the gift of time. It is a way to provide unpaid caregivers a short term break from the daily responsibility of caring for a disabled child, adult or elder loved one. The CareBreaks program allows Patrick to partially pay for nursing assistants to help him with Karen’s daily needs and also allows for him to shop, make his own doctor’s appointments, or even step out for a quick cup of coffee.
“I’ve got good people coming in to help us,” he said. “They are caring and compassionate. We don’t have any relatives so they are like family to us. I need the consistency and it allows me to get out of the house to go to the supermarket or stop by Dunkin Donuts. For us, it’s much better to be home, to get better care.”
Without financial support from the annual Catholic Charity Appeal, the diocese would not be able to operate this program which serves around 200 families annually throughout Rhode Island, said Kathy McKeon, supervisor of the diocesan Office of Community Services & Catholic Charities.
The CareBreaks program is a public/private partnership. Catholic Charities provides program support, with additional assistance provided in the form of grants from the state of Rhode Island, as well as the federal government through its Division of Elderly Affairs. Federal grants require matching funds so the diocesan support makes this program possible.
“We saved all of our lives and spent our money wisely, but it’s just difficult,” said Patrick. “It’s an excellent program. More people should know about it. I appreciate this because it helps — everything helps.”
According to the Office of Community Services & Catholic Charities, as many as 217,000 Rhode Islanders will find themselves serving as caregivers for a family member or friend this year.
Beginning April 3, the Diocese of Providence will offer a new respite care program designed to support caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other progressive memory disorders. The First Sunday program will allow caregivers to spend an afternoon to themselves away from the rigors of caregiving, while their loved one enjoys an afternoon of structured activities at Hope Alzheimer’s Center. The program will be staffed by Hope Center employees who are skilled in providing care to people with memory impairments, plus volunteers from Bishop Hendricken High School and St. David’s Episcopal Church. Activities may include gardening, outdoor walks, music, art, crafts, cooking, tai chi, yoga for seniors and much more.
First Sunday is offered at no charge to those who register, said McKeon.
“With First Sunday the families who are registered are able to call the program with only a few days’ notice and request the service. This flexibility on a Sunday afternoon for caregivers is wonderful, and something that is often lost when you are a primary caregiver,” she explained.
McKeon shared that there has been an incredible response from caregivers thankful for the opportunity to take part in the respite programs so that they may have some down time while the person they love continues to receive quality and compassionate care.
“Most caregivers are very positive about the program and grateful for the break they receive,” she said. “Many will send notes after their loved one has passed, thanking the diocese for helping them to care for their family member at home right up until the end.”
For more information on the First Sunday program or to register, call 946-9220. For questions about CareBreaks call Kathy McKeon at 401-421-7833 ext.206 or email kmckeondioceseofprovidence.org.
During the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to be particularly attentive to ways they may exhibit God’s mercy by serving the needs of those in their communities and around the world. To offer a donation to help the numerous ministries served by the annual diocesan Catholic Charity Appeal, please visit: https://providencediocese.thankyou4caring.org.