By Susan E. Bouchard, Age-Friendly RI
John Grimes, 75, of Warwick, R.I. made a promise to his wife on their wedding day that he’d be there for her in sickness and in health.
It’s a vow he’s keeping. Gail, 73, a retired emergency room nurse, spends most of her days in a hospital bed in their home, with multiple medical problems including amputations.
For most of the past ten years, John has been taking care of his wife by himself. “You can’t imagine the pressure I felt when I had to leave Gail alone to pick up a prescription or run to the store,” he said. “I found myself speeding down Warwick Avenue because I was just so worried about her.”
One day while chatting with one of the nurses caring for this wife, John recalls, the nurse mentioned a program that offers short-term breaks from the daily responsibilities of caring for a loved one. Describing himself as ‘old-school’ and very unaccustomed to asking for help, he knew that going it alone was taking its toll on him.
Soon he connected with the program she described. CareBreaks is supported by state and federal funds and administered by the Diocese of Providence, it provides respite services for unpaid caregivers, often family members like John.
“For years I tried to do this alone, even neglected my own health, to take care of my wife. I had never asked for help in my life, but this program…” pausing for a moment, his voice cracking with emotion, he continued, “it saved my life.”
While every family’s situation is unique, for the Grimes, the program was able to help them find and share in the cost of a qualified caregiver who could stay with Gail for a few hours a week so that John could run a few errands, take care of himself and even meet his former coworkers for lunch or a beer. A break – or respite – for a few hours a week. John started feeling less overwhelmed. And brighter days were right around the corner for both of them. A change in medication for Gail and she started to feel better too.
Sitting on the edge of Gail’s bed in their living room with their dog Tinkerbelle stretched out next to them, the pair banter back and forth finishing each other’s sentences like couples who have been married for many decades do. While health concerns are never far from their minds, they challenge each other at Jeopardy and talk of visits to the ocean and plans for the future.
“I will continue to care for Gail for as long as we both shall live,” John said. “After all, that’s what we promised on our wedding day.”
To learn more about the CareBreaks program click HERE or call (401) 421-7833 x 212