Rita Cahill with her daughter Maureen Farren.

One Way to Make Aging in Your Own Home Possible: Consumer Directed Care


Earlier this May, Rita Cahill of Peabody reached seventy-five years of living in the same home in which she and her husband John raised their seven children. At age ninety-five, Rita has lived alone in the home for over thirty years.  North Shore Elder Services has been providing services to Rita since February of 2014 through the Consumer Directed Care option.

This option has contributed to Rita, despite being legally blind from macular degeneration, successfully staying in the home and neighborhood she loves.

Consumer Directed Care (CDC) is a service option within the State Home Care Program. It empowers elders to have greater control over their care needs by hiring, supervising, and dismissing their own workers.  It is a program that does not dictate having to be on MassHealth (Medicaid).

Workers are paid at a set rate established by the State. Any individual who is not the guardian or surrogate may be a worker.

In Rita’s case, she already had her two daughters, Barbara and Maureen, involved in caregiving. Rita preferred that she continue receiving care from her family.

As Rita’s needs increased, she was enrolled in the Enhanced Community Options Program (ECOP) and today receives eleven hours of service under the CDC option. Between Barbara, Maureen and grand-daughter Julie, the family provides more than the eleven hours of care that payment is received for.

This care from family is what keeps Rita where she chooses to age – in the home that she knows so well.

Rita is what we refer to as a Wellderly. She has lived into her ninth decade and beyond without developing a significant chronic medical condition and is functioning at a high cognitive level.

During the month of May we celebrate Older Americans Month. The theme is Age Out Loud which acknowledges that aging has changed and older adults should have a say about how they age.  Elders are interested in taking charge of their lives, maintaining independence, and wellness, and advocating for themselves.

Rita is the only remaining original resident on her street. She is referred to as the Matriarch of the neighborhood.  Down the street from her there is a bench marking a newly built trail through the woods.  The family is dedicating an engraved plaque in Rita and John’s family name to be added to the bench in honor of the families’ stake in their neighborhood.

Rita says she “never expected to be here this long.” Other than wishing John had lived longer, there isn’t a thing she would change.  John lived down the street from Rita in Lynn while growing up.  They married in May of 1942 and that December, John was drafted into the army and left for war duty for three years.  Their first born daughter arrived without John present and it would be fifteen months before he met her.  During his time overseas Rita rarely received letters and had no idea when or if John would return to their life in Peabody.

Rita manages the best she can with the macular degeneration. Living in a familiar space contributes to coping optimally.

Crosswords were always a favorite of Rita’s. She cannot see well enough to do on her own but daughter Maureen does them with her.  She can’t see the baseball games she enjoys but she can listen to them.  Daily Mass on television is also something she can enjoy listening to.

She has the use of a computer in her home and grand-daughter Julie helps her keep connected. Rita can still crochet because she can rely on feel and memory.

Rita was a baker of wedding cakes as well as a seamstress of bridal gowns and prom dresses. She made all of her daughters’ dresses and one grand-daughter wore her mother’s dress for her own wedding.  Rita’s wedding gown was made by her mother and has recently been donated to the Peabody Historical Society.

Family gatherings still take place in the family home with Rita’s children all contributing to keeping the tradition alive.

Rita Cahill is one of North Shore Elder Services’ consumers we want to celebrate this Older Americans Month of May. With the dedication of her family and the services provided through the Consumer Directed Care option, she is successfully aging in the home of her choice.  Rita knew she wanted to receive care from her family members and that goal has been realized.

If Consumer Directed Care is an option you think might work for you or a loved one, call North Shore Elder Services at 978-750-4540 to learn more.

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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