Nearly 10 years ago, Karen, now 70, was involved in a car accident that changed her family’s life. She suffered a severe brain injury which left both her arms and legs paralyzed.
Her husband Patrick, 69, has been by her side lovingly, caring for her ever since. He feeds, bathes and changes Karen’s clothes. He moves her from the bed to a plush recliner for variety’s sake. When Karen sleeps in her bed, Patrick sleeps on a couch next to the bed.
“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. The program is a way to provide unpaid caregivers a short-term break from the daily responsibility of caring for a disabled child, adult or elderly loved one. CareBreaks offers a reduced-cost service that pays for nursing assistants to help Patrick with Karen’s daily needs, which also gives him time to shop, make his own doctor’s appointments, or even step out for a quick cup of coffee.
“I’ve got good people coming here 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.