At a recent meeting of the Helping Hands Respite Care, our Volunteer of the Year, Loretta Keaner was acknowledged. Loretta started working as a volunteer in January of 2016. Her service to Helping Hands Respite Care has included a weekly commitment to the Adult Day Services program, a monthly commitment to Kate’s Memory Café, and some assistance with our annual family picnic and hosting of The Ability Experience riders from Pi Kappa Phi.
Volunteer of the Year, Loretta, serves the Adult Day Services Program
Alison Sarkozy describes Loretta as a true asset to the Adult Day program. “She is a real go-getter, she always tell it like it is and is not afraid to put our caregiver staff in their place, “shared Alison. “ And, I love it! Anything you ask her to do she will jump right in without hesitation. Loretta is always there for our member/participants providing encouragement and support, and also being a non-judgmental sounding board if the member is working through a tough moment.”
Volunteer of the Year Supports Kate’s Memory Cafe
Katie Donovan spoke of Loretta as her right-hand at making the Memory Café a success. “If there is some lively musical entertainment Loretta will jump up and encourage our visitors to clap along or even dance,” said Katie. “At our last Memory Café we had a mother/daughter duo as entertainment. They spontaneously decided to sing the famous song “My Prayer” ….everyone was transfixed and moved by the beautiful rendition of the song. I am so glad I caught Loretta in the background of the video of the ladies singing ….at one point Loretta slipped into the kitchen to grab a Kleenex to wipe her tears away. That moment of vulnerability just warmed my heart.” Loretta has also provides a very personal gift of service to my Mom at the Memory Café. While Mom attends as my partner in care, she doesn’t see herself as needing any help or support. Loretta treats Mom as a co-volunteer and always make her feel needed and useful. As Mom continues to decline in her own journey with dementia, these moments of competence supplied by Loretta mean so much to me – she can offer Mom something that I simply can’t give as her caregiver and daughter – a simple acknowledgment as a friend.”
Volunteer of the Year Pitches in at Annual Family Picnic
The Annual Family Picnic and Welcoming Event for the 37 plus fraternity brothers from across the nation is an opportunity for more service from Loretta. Putting on the picnic event is a big effort and every volunteer makes it that much easier to give up a Sunday afternoon in July for this event.
We are so thankful that Loretta so generously shares her time and talent.
It was an easy choice to single out Loretta Keaner as our 2017 Volunteer of the Year!
A speech delivered by John Stauffer April 26th at the Annual Helping Hearts Giving Society Breakfast to cast a vision for the future of Helping Hands Respite Care.
It brings me great comfort to see so many familiar friendly faces in the room. Faces of individuals and agencies who have been assisting Helping Hands Respite Care in its effort to provide quality respite within our community for years. I also see many new faces, I welcome you under our respite umbrella – there is more work to do therefore I am very glad for your presence here today.
This year we have chosen to celebrate our successes. I think it is a fitting theme because we have had memorable successes in spite of working through a difficult climate. Over the last year we have experienced 11 deaths. Those who support us know the fragility of our clients, but this was an exceptionally high toll on families and for our staff to overcome this year. It is impossible to do the type of intimate care provided by our agency without getting emotionally invested, but we have chosen to celebrate the life of each and every one of those 11, in small ways each and every day, instead of mourning their loss.
This year has also been financially difficult, not just for us but for many non-profits. Many services have been cut and doors closed because of tightening of federal dollars to support non-profit causes. The constant struggle of trying to do more with less is something we have embraced at Helping Hands Respite Care and in a large part is what I am here to celebrate with you today.
I stood here before you a year ago and shared a vision, and it is from that vision that the successes I share with you today have become reality. The vision included restructuring who we are and how we operate as an agency, specifically through the use of volunteers. While like most visions it did not unfold exactly as planned but the results have far exceeded our expectations.
Kate’s Memory Café, born from this fund raising process, is a free service run by volunteer Katie Donovan and was already in existence when I spoke to you last year. This event takes place on the 2nd Sunday of every month. In the beginning I would join Katie and we would rush around getting the room ready, food prepared, musicians set-up, tables arranged for the guests that were about to share an afternoon with us of food, music, laughter, stories and even occasionally tears.
What has changed since I stood before you here last year? I have only attended one Memory Café session in the last year. Katie has developed a core group of volunteers like Loretta Keaner. Along with a larger group of “occasional” volunteers who have assisted her each and every month in assuring those families who attend have a warm, memorable experience. Volunteers who showed up because over the last year people like Vicki Rakowski, and Barb Zimmerman, shared their expertise in volunteerism to help our agency implement our vision of better service to our clients through improved utilization of volunteers. Vicki and Barb over the last year have created the manual that helps us recruit, train, and retain these volunteers. It is that which has helped Kate’s Memory Café enjoy the successes it has experienced over the last year.
One of our longest running programs is our weekend Respite House, a structure owned by McLaren Greater Lansing and staffed by Helping Hands Respite Care for 25 years. About a year ago McLaren Greater Lansing’s CEO, Tom Mee, came to speak at the East Lansing Rotary, a group to which I happen to belong. I seated myself at Tom’s table and struck up a conversation, three short weeks later I was in his office with Katie Donovan explaining to Tom ways in which we could work together. He called his marketing manager, Brian Brown, into the room. After a few brief conversations Tom had wheels set in motion that included some wonderful financial support to our agency, and an agreement to work with the community in supporting our efforts to update our aging Respite House.
When built, our Respite House had everything you could want in a handicap accessible structure, However that was 25 years ago and my how things have changed. With the help of a Go Fund Me campaign and a financial promise from McLaren we got busy updating. Our Board President-elect Jane Beaudoin and her husband Gary basically lived at the Respite House for a week last August. We changed-out appliances, scraped and painted basement walls, updated flooring, added wall mounted lifts to help with transfers, painted all the walls on the main floor, and completely gutted and rebuilt our bathroom with tiled walls and a zero-entry shower. The bathroom renovation can be attributed to Sam Tucker, another of our hard-working board members. He, his crew, and contractor friends made an absolutely amazing transformation in our bathroom. Our kids were lining up to take a shower, it was that much fun. (thanks Sam). Another board member who couldn’t stay away from the fun was our Board President, Kevin Beard, who showed up like a gunfighter ready for action with his tool belt slung low, he helped assure all our appliances were installed and working properly (thanks Kevin). Jane, our vice-president having seen the deplorable condition of our bedding gathered up her neighbors to help purchase new linens for the four beds at the house and this group of neighbors will forever now be known as the “Ladies of the Sheets.” The Greater Lansing Quilters Guild stepped up with three new quilts for each bed. Our kids love the vibrant colors and intricate patterns. In all, over 40 volunteers have helped in two structured project work groups to help turn our Respite House pumpkin back into a glittering carriage. A monumental task, but one that took on a life of its own and again far exceeded expectations all because of collaborators like McLaren Greater Lansing and a very large group of volunteers secured because of our new volunteer focus.
Our greatest success this year is the implementation of a new business model for Helping Hands that utilizes paid internships in each and every program we offer. The utilization of paid interns ensures quality care is accomplished at a far lower cost than a typical Helping Hands Care provider. The interns come from human service majors at Michigan State University. To date we have paid interns from family studies, social work, kinesiology and psychology. We are working with pre-med, nursing, and neuro-science to expand those available to complete a paid internship. These interns come to us usually as juniors or seniors and are excited about the opportunity to put their newly learned skills to work in a hands-on practical setting. We require each intern to complete our training which, as many of you already know, is the best in the area for those agencies providing respite. These interns must be with us for at least two semesters and their assistance will help stabilize any effect of outside financial influences like changes in minimum wage, because we control and set the stipend the interns receive. In our Beta test that started in January, we received an A grade from the University, mainly because we successfully completed and turned in, all the required paperwork. From the families and the interns themselves we get an A+. Just ask Mary Claire, who will share with us just a snippet of her personal experience as one of our Beta test paid interns.
There it is, the highlights of this year’s greatest successes we wanted to celebrate with you. Kate’s Memory Café,the Respite House face-lift and our new business model that incorporates paid interns. While all three are successes, much work still remains to be done. We have just scratched the surface on what we can do with volunteers. We only have one complete semester under our belts with our paid interns. We will look to you for support to help stabilize and grow these fledgling programs. Once that is accomplished your continued generosity and faith in our ability to provide quality programming and leadership in the area of respite in our local area will help us address our next big challenge. That is, our friends and collaborating agencies are currently knocking on our door and asking us to work with them and to help them in new and exciting endeavors that pertain to respite needs. Your support is the how and why we will be able, as an agency, to continue to make significant progress and with great impact in serving these respite needs.
If you are a client/family, caregiver, or contracting agency, most of you may already be feeling the effects of our switch over from the VINCENT scheduling system to Clear Care Online. For us the decision to switch over was easy, based on the research done before hand. We were propelled by the fact that as an early adopter of the VINCENT system we experienced some disappointment in getting changes made to the system to accommodate our needs or simply to fix glitches. After a month and a half of preparation, and with the help of the Clear Care transition team and a dedicated transition counselor we went LIVE on May 1st and began the change-over transition.
Even with all our hopes for the better solution for the families we serve and the care givers who help us keep our promises – there is never a great time to make a transition. We are so proud of our Office Administrator Janette Lauzon, and our Scheduler Rhonda Mliakoff. Together these two have done a fabulous job of coordinating this transition. Not going to lie, there were frustrations along the way, but we have never had the kind of daily and intensive support from a vendor like we have had from Clear Care.
What the Clear Care Benefits are to the Families We Serve
The Family Room Forum – Each family has their own “room” to communicate with us and the caregivers scheduled to provide care. The Family Room provides a place for communicating back and forth. Family members can request some additional tasks, offer reminders on one-time events which the caregiver may need to be aware of; and likewise, the caregivers can share comments on things that happened during their shift that may help the family. Once you get into the swing of using the Family Room Forum we predict an even better experience for both the families and the caregivers.
Schedule View – The families can see the schedule online, either from your desktop computer or your smart phone. The schedule is a living document and shows the shifts with times and who is covering that shift. The whole month view of the calendar gives you a comprehensive look at a color-coded plan which lets you know which shifts are scheduled, shifts that are still open, those in process and those completed. Notes can be appended to the schedule such as when a caregiver did not show or the family had to call off a shift – this is making the billing process so much easier!
Care Notes – The Clear Care system will hold the details of the Person-Centered-Plans (PCP) including a list of all the required Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and show those needed for a particular shift. When a caregiver checks in via their phone, they will see what is on the schedule for that shift, and when they clock out they will only be able to do so after answering the questions related to the ADL tasks. A simple “YES” if a task was completed, a “NO” with an explanation why. The system will also capture mileage related to any activity where the caregiver took the client out into the community as well as any comments or concerns for the family. This instant capture of care notes creates a foundation for a paperless system and makes for a much better snapshot of what happened on each shift, and that information is always available to the families. The supervisors will also have access. As our caregivers get used to checking in and clocking out, and reporting, we are convinced that the level of care will get even better.
What Clear Care Means to the Administration of Services
As you can imagine the job of administering, scheduling and managing up to 75 caregivers to deliver over 5000 hours of care each month (and growing) to 100 or more families through the six programs offered by Helping Hands Respite Care…it can get complicated. Clear Care is beginning to uncomplicate these processes for us in some meaningful ways.
The paperless care notes system provides far more accurate documentation of what happens on every shift and provides alerts for action items. Already we are finding the system to be intuitive, user-friendly, and much faster.
The information that comes out of the system and immediately interfaces with our billing system provides for a more accurate monthly invoice which reflects the many variables involved such as acuity level, role of caregiver, and variable pay structure of the caregiver in a group setting such as the Respite House, and the specific requirements of the various contract sources. This also translates to a more streamlined payroll process. For example, within our Adult Day Services program those members who attend and receive support from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) must receive a particular rate prescribed by the VA. In the past, reviewing the daily care notes for a particular pay period to determine which caregiver served which member to satisfy the contract would take up to an hour. Now it takes 10 minutes!
We are only just now beginning to realize the benefits of simplifying the scheduling process with Clear Care. It is not uncommon to have to accommodate a last minute change in a schedule due to illness. On Thursday at 5pm a caregiver called in to let us know that she would be unable to fill an overnight/awake shift at the Respite House beginning at 6pm on Friday. By going into the Clear Care system after clicking on the shift that needed to be covered, in just a few minutes we clicked a few buttons to reflect the criteria we needed in a caregiver for this shift, including finding all those that could possibly work that time frame without going into overtime. We found eight potential workers which met our criteria. Their names were clicked and a text message was sent to all asking if they wanted the shift. Within 5 minutes, the shift was filled!
As you can tell, excitement is rising for us as we continue the transition begun on May 1st. On June 1 we will be doing our first billing process and with any luck it will yield the same kind of benefits we have realized on the scheduling and payroll side of the equation.
Bottom line, it looks like we have a winner. We know it may take time for everyone to get up to speed on using this new system …which means the information and accuracy is only going to improve. If you are having challenges with the system, please do not hesitate to reach out to us so we can help you with your learning curve. This is a system that supports us all in ways that help us continue to keep the families that we serve in a position to receive the full benefits of respite, while their loved one gets the best care possible.
Donate for the Respite House Renovation – Get Raffle Ticket(s) for Prizes
Last summer, through the generosity of dozens of volunteers and supporters, and an amazing sponsor – McLaren Greater Lansing, we nearly completed the renovation of our Weekend Respite House. The Respite House facility, home to one of our most popular programs, was in serious need of updating after 22 years of service. The handicap bathroom became even more accessible, a new paint job on the main floor, new flooring in the kitchen and bath were installed, and new appliances in the kitchen and the basement were installed. Additionally, much work was done on the exterior to clean-up and brighten the exterior and the garage.
Respite House Renovation Inspires More Needs
Focusing our attention on the Respite House renovation gave us the chance to see many other small projects which required our attention. Just like any homeowner, one project seems to lead to another.
As autumn arrived the funds and the energy for Phase 1 ran out – yet there was still work to do. One of the biggest ticket items we were not able to cover was the purchase of the power pack for the new lift mechanisms installed in each bedroom (many of the children who attend Respite House are in wheelchairs and need assistance to be transferred from chair to bed.) A new power pack costs approximately $2,000 and can easily be transferred from one bedroom to the other.
Other work yet to be done includes a facelift for the second-story sleeping quarters for caregivers (Weekend Respite House requires 24/7 care from our professional caregivers.) Plus, included in our Get it Finished wish list are the funds to go shopping in a specialty catalog for games and calming devices for children on the Autism Spectrum.
Respite House – Get it Finished Plan – being fueled by volunteers from AF Group
At the end of 2016, our friends at AF Group reached out to us with a special request – they were establishing a new employee volunteer program and were looking for projects for their employees. You can imagine that our first thoughts went to our Respite House. We are pleased to say that a work session has been scheduled and we expect to be putting 10 employees to work over a two day period.
Covering the Costs of the Respite House Get it Finished Plan
At Helping Hands Respite Care we have received some beautiful and relevant gifts to benefit our mission of Caring for Those Caring for Others. In Phase 1 members of the Capital City Quilters Guild stepped up and made beautiful quilts for the four Respite House beds. The quilters have continued to donate more handcrafted quilts and specialty pillow cases; and now we have enough quilts to be sure that we always have enough to dress the beds to match the age and interest of the children attending. There were a few quilts which were not exactly the right size for the hospital beds and so we have decided to offer two lovely quilts as raffle prizes to our online donors in a special promotion to raise funds for the Respite House.
Thanks to our friends at Wharton Center and the production company we also have two pair of tickets to the April 11th opening of the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Wharton Center. Based on the book of the same name, this play creates a powerful experience which leads to a greater understanding of the thought processes and perceptions of a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
We have created an online event to sell tickets to cover the final costs of our Respite House Renovation project. Here is the link to the secure donation site at Network for Good.
The details for the Respite House Online Event are:
Fund Raising Event Period: March 24, 2017 to April 6, 2017 Cost of a Ticket: $15.00 – Each ticket purchased will serve as your receipt for your donation
Each ticket will be one entry into the drawing. When the event closes Helping Hands Respite Care staff will download the list of all ticket holders and create an individual slip to drop into a fishbowl for the drawing.
Drawing: Facebook Live Drawing on our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/helpinghandsrespite
Courtesy call to the winners will be made immediately following the LIVE drawing. Prize Winners: Quilts can be collected at our administrative offices at 201 Hillside Court, East Lansing, MI. Ticket winners to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time may pick up their tickets at WILL CALL window at Wharton Center prior to show on April 11th.
– No limit to the number of tickets purchased
– Employees and Contractors of Helping Hands Respite Care may not participate
– It is the responsibility of the prize winners to pick up their prizes on a timely basis
– This is an online/limited time promotion. No accommodations can be made for offline participation due to the short timeframe
At a recent special gathering of the Helping Hands Board of Directors two special people were invited to attend. This is the meeting in which the Board of Directors announces and honors the Volunteer of the Year shared by two individuals this year. The two people were selected because together their efforts have had a significant impact on our organization. Vicki Rakowski our volunteer Volunteer Coordinator and Katie Donovan our Marketing and Fund Development Consultant.
Executive Director John Stauffer presented his comments and acknowledgement on behalf of the staff and Board of Directors:
There is not a single word that describes Vicki Rakowski. She is a very complex individual who lives life to the fullest. Vicki is a retired nurse, but this does not stop her from lending a hand wherever she can. She is energetic, knowledgeable, driven, compassionate, motivating, a great friend, a motivator, and an all-around class act. Vicki is known to bring a high level of energy to anything she takes on. When there is a need, Vicki is there to tackle the problem. Helping Hands has been fortunate to have Vicki help create a volunteer handbook/manual, as well as forms required to bring volunteers on board. This process has improved the volunteer program by creating efficient processes for finding, recruiting, retaining volunteers, and making them feel like part of our family here at Helping Hands Respite Care. Her presence, opinions, and skills, are greatly valued. “I am so honored to be recognized like this – truly I am the one that is on the receiving end of this relationship,” shared Rakowski.
Katie has worked with Helping Hands for approximately three years in both consulting and volunteer roles. She has always been committed to the agency and its mission. Katie is responsible for guiding the process for creating the current name and brand identity for Helping Hands Respite Care. In addition to being a wonderful marketing consultant, Katie has implemented our sustainable fund raising model. She has become the voice and creator behind the technology and communication aspects related to our excellent electronic newsletter, website, and Facebook page. Katie also single handedly created Kate’s Memory Café, which takes place on the second Sunday of every month at the Adult Day Services program building. She volunteers to facilitate the monthly event and create the agenda for the Memory Café. Katie recently took on the project of soliciting and coordinating volunteers for our Respite House renovation, donating over 50 hours of time over and above her consulting responsibilities. Katie has generated more funds, members, and support from the community all because of her belief in Helping Hands Respite Care. “Choosing to create and facilitate the Memory Café has been a very personal labor of love. I do it to honor my mother and my father. Mom was the caregiver for Dad as he fought the losses and diminishing awareness that the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s brought on our family,” commented Donovan.
We are working hard to get to the end of this project but wanted to stop for a moment to give you a progress report on the Respite House. You have all heard the old adage “the best laid plans of mice and men” – it means that no matter how you hard you plan, there will always be things that go wrong.
Well, when it comes to the Respite House project our best laid plans went both right and wrong. In the right column we have:
RIGHT: Our timely meeting with McLaren Greater Lansing’s CEO, Thomas Mee. What an affirming experience to know that our new friends at McLaren believe in what we do and graciously stepped up to help us close the funding gap for the Respite House Face-Lift project. The $16,000 raised, at last count has leveraged $45,000 in repairs, materials, and new appliances.
RIGHT: The 18 and counting donors who contributed to the Go Fund Me campaign. Many who have already been acknowledged on the same day or next day after their gift. Stay tuned for more on this topic. You can still help us enhance the Respite House experience for the kids by going to www.gofundme.com/respitehouse to make a donation.
RIGHT: The incredible and reliable help we received from Board VP, Jane Beaudoin and her husband Gary; the professional guidance and coordination from Board Member Sam Tucker who helped us make decisions about our projects and leveraged thousands of dollars of value from so many of his contractors and vendors for his Home Management Company (HMCO); and, Board President Kevin Beard’s willingness to step-up and pitch in on several fix-it projects. Staff member Dawn Todd for showing up to help us clear the decks for the work to begin and for bring her son Antonio Todd along for some of the heavy lifting.
RIGHT: Those volunteers who responded to our call to sign-up for work shifts: including Bob Conway father of Cassidy and Kylie, who value and count on our respite services; Bonnie Jordan and Stan Kranz, regulars at Kate’s Memory Café who showed up four times for work sessions; volunteer nurse Vicki Rakowski for pitching in to help with the basement clean-up (something that we didn’t put on our list but desperately needed to be done); and 10, yes 10, members of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity who kept Volunteer Coordinator Katie Donovan hopping for a whole Saturday afternoon; the Life Leads group volunteers Sarah (plus her two boys, and Vyra; and the Ladies of the Lake – Gayle, Susan, and Jaye who responded to our Facebook request for help and took a shift which included prepping, painting, and cleaning.
And, in the WRONG column:
WRONG: With any home improvement project there will be surprises, and we had more than our share, including temporarily losing track of the toilet for the bathroom.
WRONG: Our two and a half week timeline expanded to more like four and there are still some lingering projects.
WRONG: We discovered a wall in the basement that needs some serious attention. Plus we had to delay replacing the basement windows because of lack of funds and other more pressing projects.
WRONG: Our daily work of the agency continued even though the Respite House Face Lift required lots of attention. Not going to lie – my daily productivity suffered here at the Administrative office, and the project suffered without a focused project coordinator.
WRONG: Communication and expectations were sometimes a problem. But, somehow we made it through.
So, you can see that our WRONG list was much shorter than our RIGHT list and there is lots more that I didn’t include in the RIGHT list. As we are approaching completion of this project it is easy to imagine the kids and the families that count on and deeply appreciate the value of this weekend respite program. We are all excited to turn it back to the staff, family and kids.
If your interest is helping older adults, we have some wonderful volunteer opportunities in our Adult Day Services (ADS) program. We are proud to have a program which is a well-planned schedule of individual and group activities which meet the varied needs of our member participants.
We would like to suggest a volunteer opportunity where you and a friend commit to coming on the same day (or days) for at least 3 hour shifts. In this way you will get to know our members better and faster. By committing to a regular schedule you will become a reliable partner in care.