A Silver Lining in Loss

Learning from Those labeled “Disabled” – John Stauffer

This has been a tough month, but I have learned to always look for the silver lining. What has been tough about this month? We have had five friends/clients pass away over the last few weeks, two young adults and three seniors that enjoyed different programs provided by Helping Hands Respite Care. Where is the silver lining in the death of a friend? It is in the memory and what you take away from the interactions with them.

I ask your indulgence as I share just two lessons from those who recently passed, that has had an effect in my life. The first comes from a scholarly man, who struggled for several years with dementia in his later years. While education was his forte what he left me with were more words about life rather than education, he shared that “Each new day is another opportunity to smile.” This sounds simplistic but dwell on those words for a while, let them gently float through your thoughts, and you start to see and feel the depth of these simple words. What is your day going to look like? What impact are you going to make on those you encounter? If you choose to start your day with a smile, chances are very high that you will have a memorable and positive impact on those who encounter you throughout the day, and you greatly improve your chances of having a good day. Thank You H.C. for those words of wisdom.

My second take away is from a young woman for whom we provided care over many years. She was non-verbal, and had limited mobility, but her “disability” did not prevent her from making her feelings and wishes known and it didn’t prevent her from getting out and about. It was clear from the first time that I met her that she was a happy person that enjoyed life and lived in the moment. Over my dozens of encounters with this young lady, what she taught me was a life lesson that is really hard for some of us and that is to “Live in the moment” to enjoy what is right in front of you now. Life is uncertain, so make the best of each opportunity. Laugh more, worry less – it is that simple, but so many of us muck it up and complicate life to the point that we can barely function. The pure joy and happiness I experienced in being in this young lady’s presence where she always enjoyed the moment has made me a better person. Laurel, Thank you for demonstrating the value and the joy that life gives by simply “being in the moment.”

Each of us have talents and gifts, let us each work a little harder to recognize those in others.

Family Support and Counseling

Child In-Home Supervisor Tarra Boris marking new milestones.

Family Support and Counseling Available at Helping Hands – Tarra Boris
As some of you may know, I am currently a MSU graduate level student working on my Master’s degree in social work. This is my final year in the program and I am already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! A part of my background experience includes a bachelor’s degree in social work from Ferris State University. I have had many experiences working with individuals and families throughout the years and feel well-prepared to be of assistance.

Since working here at Helping Hands Respite Care, I have identified a need within our families that we serve. All of our families struggle with finding adequate care for their loved one and we couldn’t be happier to help give you the respite you need. However, the need I recognize here with our families, and the families I have come in contact with over the years with a loved one with a disability, is the lack of support. No matter what your circumstance, it is always great to have access to a listening ear.
Our mission is to “Improve the quality of life for families caring for children and adults with disabilities, chronic illness or age-related conditions.” You should know that Community Mental Health offers funds to our agency to send the in-home supervisor to visit, support and listen to our families that want the service.

Additionally, there are some families who are required by contract to meet with the in-home supervisor on a monthly basis but are not utilizing the service.

As part of my advanced studies I am taking courses to be certified as a Clinical Child and Families counselor. If you would like an occasional listening ear, or are required to meet by contract, it would be my pleasure to sit down and visit with your family. Feel free to give me a call to schedule a time that works for you. You can reach me at the office at 517-372-6671 Ext. 103, or send an email to Tarra@HelpingHandsRespite.care I look forward to meeting with you.

Things We Learn

The Things We Learn Along the Way –  by Jeff Nunham

Adult In Home Supervisor, Jeff Nunham talks about the things we learn along the way. There was clearly a bit of strain and tension on the face of the care provider who sat down in my office. He was about to explain why, after less than three months as a care provider, he was resigning from Helping Hands. He came to us as a promising student heading for medical school. His father is a prominent doctor in Grand Rapids. He was very clear when I interviewed him three months earlier that his goal was to become a great physician like his dad. However, after working with several of our families, he realized that working this close with another person did not give him the kind of reward he thought it would. This realization prompted him to make a life changing decision. Now, he was about to explain it all to me. He would no longer study to be a doctor, but would instead seek a career in medical business. This was a giant decision.
What impressed me, was the fact that his time spent with a couple of our clients helped him clarify what he really wanted to do with his life. This encounter for me was one of those “aha” moments. This is when something that previously had been obscure, suddenly becomes crystal clear. Our clients are helping our care providers.
I regularly interview, train and supervise care providers who come to us to help families by caring for a loved one with a disability. They come with great compassion and idealism, focused on extending care to another person. The direction of their thinking and effort is always toward the person. “I’m here to take care of you” is the general thought process. My “aha” moment was the realization that the person we are helping is actually having an equal or greater impact on us who are the care providers.
The wonderful people we serve, some with extreme and multiple disabilities, are teaching us how to love and be loving. By virtue of their need, they call us to a greater level of commitment, making us better men and women. They reveal the strengths and weaknesses we hide within us, thus coaching us to change toward growth and maturity. What an incredible gift. And we thought we were here to help them.
We, as an agency are always seeking ways to improve what we do. The same perseverance we see in many of our clients call us to work harder to solve problems. The creative ways some of our clients communicate, urge us to think outside the box as we are being challenged by licensing authorities to require more of our staff. When you serve people who never seem to give up, they call us to a higher standard. Aha!


Jeff Nunham is the Adult In-Home Care Supervisor at Helping Hands Respite Care. He is a former pastor and often has great inspiration and advice about how we do our work. 

Health History

Nurse Jane at Helping Hands Respite taking blood sugars to compare with health history.

Why We Take a Thorough Health History

A thorough health history and medicine list is important for our caregiver staff to best take care of your loved one. An example of how the history can be helpful might be if your loved one had a history of radiation in the abdominal region. This may cause radiation colitis, with the most apparent symptom being diarrhea. This helps to narrow down causes for the diarrhea, such as an infection source vs a prior cause.


Health History Can Explain Behaviors

Restlessness in our seniors is another area in which we can benefit from looking at a thorough health, medicine and lifestyle history. Using this combined information some reasons for the restlessness might be found and ways to make the senior more comfortable can be added to the care plan.
It is a good idea for families to communicate prior health history and lifestyle behaviors, and then continuing to update your professional caregivers on all health and medicine changes. Not doing so, can leave families vulnerable to having their loved one discharged from our program if we do not have thorough information to modify and deal with behaviors and health problems. And, we don’t want that to happen.
There are five reasons that could put your loved one at risk for discharge:
1. Persistent and uncontrolled incontinence
2. Persistent disruptive or violent behavior, including chronic “run-aways.”
3. Need of physical care beyond the capabilities of the program
4. Inability to feed self
5. No proof of Tb test
The above reasons/problems might be resolved if caregiver staff had your help with maintaining prior health history, and previous and current medications. If you haven’t updated your health history lately check in with Nurse Jane Rogers in our Adult Day Services program.  nursejane@helpinghandsrespite.care

Transitioning into the School Year

Clean Up Day at BBT is all part of transitioning to the new school year. Executive Direct John painting as participant Jimmy supervises.

The Breaking Barrier Today (BBT) program made it through its first summer and is transitioning into the school year! This was an accomplishment for all of us including parents and your loved ones, care providers, Gier staff, and others. BBT has cleared many hurdles to get to where we are now. Between moving to the Gier Community Center; setting up our spaces; getting used to having a summer camp and many campers running around; and going on field trips, we have learned many new skills. We transitioned from the Beekman Center to the Gier Community Center, and now we are learning to transition from a Summer program to Fall Program and merging the former After School Program into our processes at BBT as we offer after school care.
A special thank you goes to the parents for how flexible and patient they’ve been throughout this transition. As we venture into the first Fall Semester of BBT, this again will be a transition but also a time to establish a great foundation for BBT and all that it can be for families and participants as we go forward.
On Thursday, September 10th Helping Hands Respite Care coordinated a spruce-up day at Gier Community Center, especially in the arts and crafts room. The arts and crafts room is just one of the wonderful assets we have at our disposal at the Gier Community Center and we are happy to do our part to make sure that all the spaces we use are in good shape and ready to benefit our participants and the community.
On September 14th from 6-8pm at Gier Community Center, BBT will be holding an Open House for those who would like to find out more about the program and may be interested in having their loved one attend.
Lastly, the program has been published within the Lansing Parks and Recreation Program Guide and has been mailed to households throughout the City of Lansing. This is great exposure for BBT and also Helping Hands Respite Care. Yet another way to make it known that respite care exists and the benefits offered to families, especially those with children and young adults with special needs.
We hope everyone had a great Labor Day, and that it has been a smooth transition for those of you who are going back to school and/or work!  Should you have any questions about the BBT program, please feel free to contact Elizabeth Krumm, BBT Supervisor at aspsupervisor@helpinghandsrespite.care

Change in Policy

Weekend Respite and Weekend Shifts – Change in Policy

There has been a recent change in policy for caregivers which has been put in place to provide the best opportunity for weekend respite for families. Our former policy required every caregiver to serve a mandatory three weekend shifts per month – this has now been changed to six mandatory weekend shifts per month. We recently were forced to cancel a whole weekend at the Respite House because we did not have all of the shifts covered. This was heart-breaking for the four young people who would have attended, and their families who were looking forward to a full weekend of respite.

The Benefit of the Six Weekend Shifts Plan for Caregivers

Caregivers, you have the power to schedule your own shifts, giving you all of the control you need to coordinate your schedule around important events in your life. Additionally, when you take the six weekend shifts, you may be learning about how to care for more participants, making you a better all-around care provider.

The Benefit of the Six Weekend Shifts Plan for Families

By having more caregivers trained for your loved one, in your home, or at the Weekend Respite House means you have a deeper bench of caregivers available to tap should you have the need for more coverage. The Weekend Respite House is very important to many families, and this policy was designed to make sure that we won’t have to say no to any family seeking respite.

Advice to Caregivers on Scheduling

You should know that we schedule a month in advance. Our best advice to caregivers is to be proactive about your scheduling by looking at least six to eight weeks in advance. By doing this, you will have the best shot at getting the weekend shifts you want and still be able to attend important events in your life. Our Scheduler, Molly Fultz, can be a great help to you, but she can’t help you sort out your scheduling conflicts if you don’t respond to her calls, emails, or texts.