Everyone is Family
A Trusted, Temporary Home Away From Home
Photography by Daniel Smyth
Deborah and Curt Tweddell could bend your ear with all the things their 35-year-old son, Bowen, who was born with severe cerebral palsy disorder, can’t do. Instead, Deborah delightedly shares the amazing abilities and awesome attributes of a young man who must tackle daily living challenges the rest of us cannot possibly understand.
“He has the most wicked sense of humor,” Deborah says, with a mother’s kind, knowing chuckle. “He gets subtle jokes and word meanings. He loves to listen, eavesdrop in crowds. He has a lovely disposition. For someone who can’t talk he is really quite communicative. He is a great, great guy. I have a lot of admiration for him.”
Bowen spends his days, Monday through Friday, at Redwood, a United Way agency in Fort Mitchell, near the Tweddells’ home. It is dedicated to guiding children and adults with severe and multiple disabilities toward achieving independence and reaching their highest potential. Most of the time, however, Bowen is home where he enjoys listening to old-time radio shows, classical music, NPR’s “Car Talk” and audio books. What he seems to look forward to the most, according to his parents, are the four or five overnight visits each month to the Harold C. Schott Respite Center at St. Joseph Home in Sharonville.
St. Joseph Home’s mission and ministry is to care for children and adults who have significant developmental disabilities. A non-profit ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, it has served the unmet needs of society since 1873 when it was originally incorporated as Saint Joseph Infant and Maternity Home. Long known for its compassionate care and respect for dignity of life, St. Joseph Home offers a creative, loving environment serving residents’ medical needs while at the same time enriching their social, educational, habilitative and spiritual development. Residents attend school or workshops and participate in a variety of activities, community outings and programs.
The Respite Center’s nurses and direct care staff provide short-term, overnight personal and medical care, accommodating up to eight guests at one time.
“The respite program at St. Joseph has been truly life-saving in a lot of ways,” Deborah says. “It has allowed Bowen to have a wider social life. For Bowen to have the opportunity to have a broader social community is just incredible. Without St. Joseph, our life would be really narrow, too.”
Bowen’s can-do spirit, in fact, courageously exemplifies St. Joseph Home’s motto: “Possibility Overcomes Disability.”
“We serve people with developmental disabilities who have more complex needs than most,” says Greg Cox, respite manager. “When I say people with more complex needs, I am talking about those who require a wheelchair and may have tracheotomy tubes or possibly use ventilators. For some families, we are a lifeline, giving them a break and offering dependability and security. Most individuals come to us for a weekend. Some families utilize our services once a month. Some families utilize us only once or twice a year.”
Although it is important for families to have a break from the responsibilities of caring for a loved one with profound 24/7 personal and medical needs, Cox says it is equally important for the loved one to have time apart from their families. But spending time apart, even for just a night or two, can take some getting used to at first.
“There’s a transitional aspect for families who have never had outside help caring for their loved one,” he says. “Some family members have a hard time allowing themselves a break. It may take time before a family member feels comfortable asking for help.”
Cox likens this transition to leaving a child with a babysitter or sending a child away to college for the first time. Every family goes through the process a little differently. It can be a little nerve wracking. Trust has to be built. But it’s a transition worth making, he believes, for caregivers’ long-term peace of mind.
“It’s a good idea for families to get established with a respite program, especially in case of an emergency,” Cox says. If the mother is the sole caregiver, for example, and she has to have a knee replacement, she knows her loved one will be cared for in her absence. The respite connection has already been made.
The Respite Center is licensed by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. Payment for respite services might be covered through Medicaid waiver programs, private payment or the St. Joseph Home Family Respite Access Fund, which is a scholarship funded by donors.
“We do our best to never turn anyone down,” says Cox. “Our residents and respite guests are a part of our own families.”
St. Joseph Home is located at 10722 Wyscarver Road, Cincinnati, OH 45241. For more information, call 513.563.2520, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.stjosephhome.org.