Daily Point of Light # 2549 Nov 12, 2003

In 1999, Vista ElderCare investigated the unmet needs of the family caregivers in Northern Lake County. With the assistance of a grant from the Retirement Research Foundation, the TimeOut Respite program was developed. The Vista Elder CARE TimeOut: Volunteer Respite Care program provides respite for family caregivers who are caring for a loved one at home with a chronic illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke or other disabilities. The project helps both the family caregiver and the homebound individual with the overall goal of keeping both individuals as healthy and as independent as possible, for as long as possible.

The gift of brief respite is provided by a trained, caring volunteer. Respite volunteers provide two three-hour visits per family each month. All volunteers must have a background check, are interviewed and must provide references. In extenuating circumstances, volunteers have provide four to six hours or respite for special family functions or for caregivers who are interested in attending the Powerful Tools for Caregivers class.

The respite visit provides relief for the caregiver, so that he or she can have time for himself. They may want to have lunch with a friend, run errands and have time for relaxation and renewal. The respite visit also provides companionship and a friendly visitor for the care receiver.

This respite program is unique in that before a family is matched with a volunteer, a registered nurse provides a health assessment and medication review for both the family caregiver and the care receiver. The assessment assists them in matching a volunteer with a family and also enables them to identify additional health resources for the family, such as support groups, physician referrals, homecare, physical therapy, senior services, national organizations and other community resources. Also, all caregivers are provided information regarding the Powerful Tools for Caregivers class, which is a project that is coordinated by Mather Life Ways. The Respite Coordinator teachers the Powerful Tools class with a co-leader twice a year.

The cost of respite care can create a financial burden with even middle-income families. The TimeOut Respite program provides needed breaks for the overburdened family caregiver as well as emotional support and guidance. The TimeOut program has provided caregivers just enough of a break to provide the caregiver with a new, refreshed perspective, giving them enough energy and motivation to pursue additional help from family and other community resources.

Caring for the caregiver and assisting the caregiver in caring for themselves benefits everyone. Research has consistently shown that caregivers who take care of themselves and who are supported delay in institutionalization of their loved one by at lease one year. There is certainly a financial benefit when institutionalization is delayed; but most importantly, there is usually improved quality of life for the care receiver who is cared for at home, and the satisfaction of the caregiver knowing that they did all that they could and were able to care for their loved one at home for as long as possible.