Respite is Valuable

By Jane Rogers, RN
Respite, or relief from care duties, for even a short while can be valuable for improving the caregiver’s physical and mental well-being.
Caring for your loved one can be fulfilling and exhausting at the same time. Even respite for a few hours can give you the chance to run errands, work at your job, go to your own doctor appointments or visit with friends.

Do you feel a twinge of guilt dropping your loved one off at Adult Day Service? Well let’s look at this as a welcome change of pace for your loved one to attend our “Activity Center” to see their friends who may have similar cognitive or physical disabilities. Respite care helps avoid isolation for both of you. Without respite breaks, caregiving can be stressful and lead to resentment and depression. You are already dealing with stressful health care issues, financial challenges and over all changes to the life you once were used to and now the 24/7 caregiving adds to the stress. It’s exhausting!

At Helping Hands Respite Care, a nurse is scheduled Monday through Friday which helps the families we serve feel more at ease. We monitor participants blood pressure, pulse, weight and the PO2 which checks their level of oxygen. This is done using a painless clip on their finger. Everyone is monitored monthly and more if needed. The objective is to monitor their health, trying to avoid most health issues to make it easier for you at home. Two way communication is key to achieving this.

All in all, here at Helping Hands Respite Care, we recognize the value of respite and our ability to provide comfort to the program participants as well as the families who receive our services.

The Heart of the Matter

By Jeff Nunham, Adult In-Home Supervisor

Adult In Home Supervisor, Jeff Nunham talks about the things we learn along the way.
We often talk about the barriers and obstacles people face who suffer with a disability. Last month, I wrote about those care givers who are “on” 24/7, giving
care to a family member with a disability and who are silently suffering under the strain that goes with that level of loving care. The primary caregiver also face enormous barriers. One which we often see is the myth that says, “No one can care for my loved one like I can.” This is one huge barrier which keeps a caregiver from reaching out and asking for help.

If this is you, then this brief note is must read.

If you have been reading my newsletters lately, you will know that I think we have an exceptional staff of very competent and compassionate people. They often amaze me. Sometimes they really touch my heart.

The typical communication I exchange with our care providers is “housekeeping” kind of things. Things like filling vacant shifts, picking up medication sheets or scheduling a meeting. It is all very important, but not memorable. However, once in a while a care provider will send me a note that reminds me of the reasons I am so confident in the quality of care we give. See what you think.

Just to set this up; our client, M.K. had been acting out in ways that were quite challenging for the care provider. After a particularly difficult shift with MK, he had written an Incident Report to which I had responded, thanking him for the way he handled the situation. This is his response to me:

“Thank you, I’m just glad that the medication seemed to help his headache and combined with redirection he was able to get back to the normal happy M.K. we all know. By now M.K. is like a brother to me, and the goal is to predict what is ailing him before it gets to the point of outburst. I believe a headache or backache lead to his frustration which eventually manifested itself to this point. It hurts me to know he is in pain and has trouble communicating it, so all I can do is help him the best I can as soon as I become aware of his troubles. Sadly in this situation it was much more acute and happened rather quickly.”

Can you hear his heart…………? Who wouldn’t want the love of a brother to shape the care your loved one gets? He is one of the reasons why we say, “This is so much more than a job for our care providers”. Our care providers are all heart.

As a supervisor, I am always looking for care providers with heart. One vital source of great compassionate care is the volunteer who serves because they love to give. A few days ago, as I was walking by one of our volunteers who helps out in the Adult Day Services program, I stopped to thank them for the work they are doing. I thanked her for giving her time to be a part of the program. Her response struck me just like the email you just read. “I just love it here” was her immediate reply. Her eyes were bright and her smile revealed her warm and loving heart. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day with people like that? Like the employee who loves like a brother, this volunteer brings that same warmth and compassion to our members.

This is a message I wish every care giver could hear. If you fear allowing another person to care for your loved one, I simply say “the heart of the matter is a respite care provider who will care like a brother and serve with the love and compassion of a volunteer.”

Breaking Barriers Today (BBT) – Achieving Milestones

BBT participant Jimmy enjoying a book.

What a wonderful start we have had for 2016! Over the past few months we have been working on more goals for our clients and watching as they are achieving milestones. Now we are looking into creating job task schedules based on ability level to help your loved one continue to work on independent living skills; and getting ready for more community inclusion time as spring arrives. Our goal is to help them engage in activities for learning, socialization, and work on stimulation so they can grow as individuals.

Everyday each of your loved ones surprise us with their ability to learn and grow. Though there were many, there are a few specific achievements that were reached this month that we’d love to share with you:

Jimmy has been reading a lot of books this month. He enjoys looking at the pictures and flipping through the pages, and, when he’s done he puts the book right back where he got it.

Lucy has been starting to do hand over hand feeding. She has been guiding the care providers hand to her mouth to eat, which is awesome.

Bethany and care provider Ally did some beautiful hand over hand drawing this past week. Bethany loved it and smiled the whole time.

These are just some of the milestones we have witnessed this month and as we move forward day by day, month by month, we expect to continue to see more.

All of us at BBT want to give a shout out to Sarah who is having a birthday this month and has been a long term participant of the After School Program and BBT. Thank you Sarah for being part of the group and we hope you have a wonderful birthday! Our care providers deserve a shout out for the awesome work and the flexibility they’ve had as we continue to improve our BBT Program.

A huge thank you goes to the parents who have filled out the survey regarding BBT, your voice is important. Thank you for trusting us with your loved one and being willing to share your thoughts with us.

Welcome to Michael and Mariah as they join the BBT family next week! Here we grow.

For more information about The Breaking Barriers Today Program, please contact the program supervisor, Elizabeth Krumm,

Answer: Heart and Conviction

Caregiver Kelsey Kuipers at the office planning her schedule

Question: What Do Student Athletes and Respite Caregivers Have in Common?

Many of Helping Hands Respite caregivers are college students with plenty of heart and conviction. They may have a special interest in working in our care environments, the operative word here being care; they may be drawn to working within a family environment to care for a child with disabilities because they are students in special education, nursing, or social work. Or, perhaps their area of study focuses on gerontology or adults with disabilities. One such student and caregiver is Kelsey Kuiper, a senior at Michigan State University about to graduate and get her first placement as a student teacher in a special education classroom.

Kelsey is a student athlete who, in most cases, does a great job of juggling work responsibilities with studies and athletics. She came to Helping Hands Respite Care in the summer of 2014 on the recommendation of a roommate who already was employed by Helping Hands. Within a short period of time Kelsey was working in several different homes. The children learned to trust her and would respond well to her directions and care. “In my special education classes we learn how to teach the child but not how to care for the child,” shared Kelsey. “I remember calling my Mom after my first couple of days of working with the kids, I felt so raw and was convinced that I was no good at this; but little by little I began to understand how to care for the child who was my responsibility and how to build a bond of trust.”

Student Athlete

It didn’t take long for Kelsey to become a valued and reliable caregiver for Helping Hands Respite Care. Unfortunately, Coach Suzy Merchant was having a bad run of luck with injuries and transfers on her MSU Women’s Basketball team. While, Kelsey’s main sports were Volleyball and Track, her height and athleticism made her a great candidate to strengthen the MSU Women’s Basketball team. Agreeing to play for Coach Merchant meant Kelsey had to stop working for Helping Hands. “On the bus ride back from our last game, I texted the scheduler at Helping Hands to let her know I was ready to come back to work,” said Kelsey. “Once I came to work at Helping Hands my experiences here confirmed my decision to be a special education teacher. Learning to care is at the heart of the teacher/child relationship and I will not forget that.”

Understanding the Value of Respite Care

One thing that Kelsey was not clear on was what her service would mean to the families. When asked about her understanding of the value of respite care she candidly replied that she really didn’t know what respite meant until she “Googled” it. “Now, I hope that what I am doing is also helping the families. It is great to see that look of happiness and relief on the parent’s face when I arrive for my shift.”
In August of 2015 we will be saying goodbye when Kelsey heads to her first student teaching assignment. We will be thankful for the time that she was able to give to the families we serve, and very sorry to see her go.

Learn more about what Helping Hands Respite Care is doing to extend the length of care provider service to help the families we serve.

Family Caregiver Respite Education Project

Daughter, a family caregiver taking care of aging parent who is sitting in a wheel chair with a big pillow.

With the help of a grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health, Helping Hands Respite Care is pleased to announce the creation of the Family Caregiver Respite Education Project. The grant of $35,000 comes from the Health Innovations Grant fund. A fund established to encourage one-time grants designed to target innovations in the delivery of health services, which could be replicated in a subsequent year with the goal of expanding geographically.

Family Caregiver Respite Education Project – Awareness Campaign

The grant allows Helping Hands Respite Care create an awareness campaign which will occur over a 9 month period. The name of the campaign is The Family Caregiver Respite Education Project. The focus of the campaign is to educate on the importance of respite for family/primary caregivers.

The elements of the campaign include:

  • A series of 6 informative videos targeted to the family, friends and neighbors of family caregivers;
  • A series of 4 quarterly information events to be held at our administrative offices;
  • Collateral material in the form of brochures which support the themes presented in the videos;
  • 6 30 second public service announcements for distribution to local media
  • Speaking opportunities to local service clubs;
  • A paid 52 week social media marketing campaign
  • A benchmark awareness research project with MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPSR)

This campaign will fulfill Helping Hand’s mission to establish itself as a leader in the area and the state as a trusted resource on the issue of respite care.

It is exciting to have the resources from the State of Michigan to make this important initiative happen and to have it come along at just the right time.