Extra help is now available in Virginia for people who spend their lives caring for someone else. Virginia is one of two states given federal grant money to help relatives caring for a disabled family member, get a brief rest.
Norma Draper cares for her 27-year-old grandson, Justin Duvall, who suffered a brain injury as a baby.
"All his needs have to be met by someone else... dressing, bathing, putting him on the bed at night, feeding him," said Norma lovingly of her grandson.
Justin was born healthy, but shaken as a baby. His brain swelled and bled. Justin has been disabled since, unable to talk, walk or function without Norma's constant attention.
"He had cardiac arrest…It was documented, that he was without oxygen for 11 minutes," recounted Norma of Justin's experience in the hospital.
"Are you smart?" Norma asked Justin, who was sitting in a wheel chair in front of a touch screen computer at the kitchen table. Justin raised his left hand.
"Yes! That's a yes. When he raises his hand up, that's a yes," explained Norma.
A $179 thousand grant will allow families like Norma and Justin to apply for up to $400 through the Lifespan Respite Voucher Program. The money can help pay for a nurse, daycare center or even day camp for adults and children with special needs.
"I can't imagine not ever having any time at all to myself, and you really don't when you have somebody you care for, who has to have all their needs met," said Norma, who receives respite assistance occasionally through another program.
The voucher program will help an estimated 447 families in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
"Family members are under a great deal of stress, and need a break. So this (grant) really helps families and strengthens families, if they can receive respite services," said Mary-Margaret Cash, assistant commissioner for community based services in the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
The voucher may provide a break from the routine, but never from the love demonstrated in these families.
"He's the joy of my life," said Norma of her grandson.
For more information on how to apply, visit DARS's Respite Services site at www.vadars.org/services.htm. You may also visit Virginia Navigator at http://www.virginianavigator.org/vn/home for additional information on respite and related services available in the Commonwealth.
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