Our Lady of the Hills Church develops respite care program

COLUMBIA — Our Lady of the Hills Church received a $5,000 grant from the Sisters of Charity Foundation to begin a respite care program at their parish.

The program will fill a growing need, as more people in the parish and the community at large find themselves caring for elderly parents, spouses and other relatives at home, said pastoral associate Sister Christina Murphy, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.

When the program starts, Our Lady of the Hills will be the second Catholic church in Columbia to offer respite care. St. Joseph on Devine Street has had a weekly program in place since 1994, said Ursuline Sister Julienne Guy, who is in charge of senior ministry at St. Joseph.

Sister Christina said she applied for the grant in June. She received approval from Father Anthony Droze, pastor, to start a respite care program.

“I was hearing of more and more aging folks who were being cared for by family members who really don’t ever get a break,” she said. “We even have some people at our parish who don’t go to Mass anymore because they can’t leave their relative even for that time.”

Sister Christina said she is putting together a planning board that will begin meeting in January and complete plans by the end of May. Volunteers must then be trained.

She hopes to have the program up and running by early fall 2009, she said. The goal is to offer a four-hour session once a week.

“We want people to know their loved one will be taken care of; safe, fed and entertained while they do what they want to do for a few hours,” Sister Christina said.

First priority will be given to clients from Our Lady of the Hills, but she hopes to help people from other parishes, she said.

The respite care program at St. Joseph serves five regular clients who attend for three hours and 45 minutes on Thursdays.

The current volunteer staff can serve up to six people. During the sessions, clients make crafts, play games, listen to music, do light exercises together,  and eat a lunch that they bring from home.

“Our mission statement has been to give service to the caregiver,” said Ursuline Sister Andrea Callahan, who organizes the program. “Respite care is dear to my heart because it’s often the only break the caregiver has during the week.”

For more information on volunteering for the
respite care program, call Sister Christina
at (803) 777-2400 ext. 2.