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A time of rest

At the age of 93, still living completely on her own, Grandma began to notice some back pain. To her, and the rest of the family’s dismay, the doctor informed her she had broken her back. She hadn’t fallen. There had been no injury. Grandma, who was otherwise healthy, never even complained of a headache; she was simply getting frailer.

The immediate focus was on Grandma’s care, making sure her needs were met, she was comfortable and her back had time to heal. “Our family took a vote: have her go to a nursing home or have everyone pitch in so she didn’t have to leave her home,” said her youngest daughter, Debra, affectionately known as Nana.

Grandma’s children voted to have her stay in her home. Nana created a 24 hour, seven days a week calendar, scheduling Grandma’s family based on the days/times they were available to stay with her. Some gave more time than others, but Grandma’s large family pulled together and everyone pitched in.

For approximately eight, or so, weeks, Grandma was never alone, not one night. She had someone with her 24 hours a day. Someone prepared all of her meals, did her laundry, cleaned her house, visited and offered her companionship, took her to her doctor and other appointments, brought her groceries in and other necessities and my cousin (Bless you, Amy) bathed and groomed her. Grandma recovered from her broken back, never left the comfort of her home, all the while receiving one-on-one care and attention.

This type of care is often referred to as respite (res-pit) care, loosely translating to a time of rest. Respite care can be provided for an individual who may be struggling with the complications of an illness or injury, is aging and or declining in health, or even for a disabled adult, all of whom may not have family or loved ones near-by. Or actually, quite the opposite—they may rely heavily on the care of a family member or loved one—however the family member or loved one may have needs of their own, e.g., a job, health issues, appointments, others who rely on them, burn-out and fatigue and may simply need an opportunity to recharge.

Most credible respite companies charge anywhere from $15 to $40 per hour, depending on the U.S. location. They offer care providers who have been pre-screened and pre-qualified (drug screened, background checked and have on-going training). They offer full support to their clients and families.

Their services may vary but are similar to Grandma’s care while her large family took care of her while her broken back healed: they offer clients and family members anywhere from two to three hours per week all the way to overnight services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Clients can receive in-home, one-on-one care and companionship, including: meal preparation, light housekeeping, personal grooming, errands and extra activities and appointments outside the home.

There are some instances when an individual may qualify for Medicaid to pay for respite care, or long term care in their home, rather than to seek care in an institution or nursing home. For more information, check with your preferred respite company or your local Area Agency on Aging Office.

Respite care is thought to be temporary; although, more and more people, faced with the idea of leaving their home, or a spouse taking care of the other spouse by him or herself, while their children are in far-away states, is becoming the new long term, in-home care.

The average monthly cost of a nursing home in the U.S. is $7,148 for a semi-private room to $8,121 for a private room (Genworth’s 2017 Cost of Care Survey). Respite care, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week would prove to be more costly; however, each client and family would need to sit down and weigh-out the pros and cons as they are applicable to them and their situation.

Not everyone has seven children, nearly thirty grandchildren and as many great grandchildren, all within the same city; it worked out for Grandma.

“Yes, I’m proud of the fact that everyone was willing to help. Our family may disagree on a lot of things, but we come together when it counts,” said my Aunt Debra or Nana.

Gina (Paradiso) Cathcart is the director of Carecorner, Ltd., Colorado Respite Care. She is a healthcare educator, passionate about service to others and quality patient care. She can be reached at

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