Respite program provides a chance to heal physically, recover completely

James Norman shares how the Medical Respite Program has provided a space for him to recover while being treated for kidney failure, as Robin Dempsey, chief executive officer of Catholic Social Services, looks on.  

James Norman uses a rolling knee scooter to get around at Brother Francis Shelter, easing the discomfort of the prosthetic he is using for his amputated left leg. He is at the shelter being treated for kidney failure and awaiting a transplant while receiving weekly dialysis. 
That’s how James became a guest in Catholic Social Services’ Medical Respite Program, which provides a haven for him and others to recover from serious medical issues. 
The Medical Respite program has been serving the needs of critically ill individuals since 2015, when Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage invested $500,000 to help create recuperative living quarters for patients experiencing homelessness. Brother Francis provides the living quarters for up to 10 qualified patients, and caregivers with Providence monitor patients’ care by visiting, as needed. 
Providence continues to support the program today, investing $265,000 in community benefit in 2023. 
“We serve over 100 people a year in this space,” said Catholic Social Services CEO Robin Dempsey. “By providing this space, where individuals can recuperate and rest, we are benefiting the community because this is reducing the rates of re-admittance. In 2023, the program provided more than 2,900 nights of healing to 135 clients, many of whom might otherwise have needed to be re-admitted to the hospital.” 
The program has blossomed, Dempsey said. The respite program added an overall wellness aspect and has given way to a complex care facility that acts as a next step for those facing chronic illnesses in need of long-term support. 
“It’s a continuum of care that tries to also provide individuals with as much independence as possible,” she said. 

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