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Charlotte Sun | Page A01 Saturday, 3 September 2016 | A Passion for Caring

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The first part of Chuck and Cassie Conrad’s story would be familiar to anyone with an elderly parent. It is the second part of the story, how they responded, that makes them unique. It began with the death of Chuck’s mother in 1994.
 
Chuck’s father and mother were married for 50 years. His father, a World War II veteran, became depressed after his wife’s death. He was living in Ohio, while the Conrad’s were in Indiana.
 
“He was taking care of himself and was fully functional, but he was extremely lonely,” Cassie recalled. “He couldn’t do his bills, so he would send them to me, and I would pay them for him. We kept telling him he could move in with us, and one day he decided that was what he wanted.”
 
Chuck was vice president of retail for Best Buy, a job that kept the couple on the road. “We moved at least 14 times,” Cassie said. “We lived in California, Indiana, all over from coast to coast. We were married in Virginia Beach.”
 
Chuck’s father moved with them five times, until they wound up in Minneapolis, site of Best Buy corporate headquarters. After a year or two, he began needing more physical assistance and medical supervision. Cassie, who spent 15 years as a dental hygienist, shouldered the responsibility of caring for her father-in- law.
 
“Most doctors and medical experts said, ‘Put him in a facility; you will be better off and so will he,’” Chuck said. “But Cassie knew instinctively that was not true. Through hard work and determination, she kept my father out of a facility for nine years until his condition was too much for her or I to handle.”
 
 “It came to a point where we needed more help,” Cassie said, “so we started looking for assisted living. This was new territory for us. We didn’t even know the difference between assisted living and a nursing home.”
 
This was before Google, so Cassie had to do the legwork on her own.
 
“I visited 30 facilities,” she said. “I didn’t like the way they smelled, and I didn’t like the way they talked to me or the residents.”
 
She finally found a place in Minnesota where her father-in-law could start out in assisted living, receive memory care and physical therapy, then move into a nursing-home environment in the same place. He died there in 2003 after breaking a hip in a fall and developing pneumonia.
 
“Had he had the kind of help in Ohio that we now provide, he could have lived there by himself,” Cassie maintained.
 
“Once my father passed, we were proud of the opportunity and privilege we were given to make his time much more rewarding for the nine years he was in our care,” Chuck said. “After months of grieving his loss, we started thinking there must be a way we can help others in the same situation. We had learned a great deal of useful information and we wanted to pass that on to others.”
 
The couple purchased an Interim HealthCare franchise available in Port Charlotte, and Interim HealthCare of Charlotte County now has 40 caregivers on staff, plus a director of nursing services. Theirs is a private-duty agency approved by CHAP (Community Health Accreditation Partner).
 
 They are in the process of establishing a second office in Lee County. Asked what makes Interim different from the multitude of home health agencies in our area, Cassie didn’t hesitate.
 
“It’s our passion,” she said. “Our caregivers are on call 24 hours a day, and they must demonstrate the proper skills and education to be hired in the first place. We assess our clients personally with one of our nurses, who also conduct supervised visits every month to assess what our clients need. We want to keep them home and out of the hospital.”
 
To discover all that Interim HealthCare offers, including home care for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers, call 941-787-5636 or visit the website at http://www. interimhealthcare.com/ portcharlottefl/home.
 
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Comments and suggestions are welcome. Call Dan Mearns at 941-893-9692 or email danmearns@gmail.com.
 
 
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