Independence & Fulfillment Article:

Respite program lends a helping hand

Older adults who need a break from the daily routine of caring for a loved one can get a helping hand from respite programs.

"Taking care of another person on an ongoing basis can take its toll on the caregiver," says Pamela Piering with the City of Seattle Aging & Disability Services, a member of the Healthy Aging Partnership (HAP). "Whether you are helping a spouse recover from an illness, supervising the daily living needs of a disabled adult child, or caring for an elderly parent who requires constant attention, the demands on a caregiver can be overwhelming.

"Often, the caregiver who cannot find a way to take a well-deserved and much-needed rest can wind up becoming ill, exhausted or seriously depressed. Studies have shown that caregivers are at a higher risk for disease and health problems."

HAP - a coalition of 28 not-for-profit and public health and senior service organizations in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties - encourages older adult caregivers to take a break by taking advantage of the trained substitute caregivers available through a variety of government or charitable organizations in the Puget Sound area. You can get information on a respite program near you by calling 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464).

How have these state-funded respite programs helped area seniors? Here are just a couple of examples.

Rosemarie Butler is a full-time caregiver for her 44-year-old daughter, Susan, who was born with Down's Syndrome. Recently, the respite program enabled her to take a short vacation trip to Reno.

William Freeney of Shoreline cares for Frances, his 92-year old mother who is coping with Alzheimer's Disease. He maintains that many caregivers develop an extreme sense of obligation for their loved ones and may not seek help when stress begins to take its toll. Through the respite program, he arranged for day health services for his mother twice a week and receives services through another agency the other three days each week. William, who works nights, can sleep during the daytime knowing that Frances is well cared for.

"The program has helped tremendously," he says. "My mother really enjoys herself and the socialization is very good for her. It is a gift that my mother can live out the last years of her life in the comfort of her own home. I needed help to make this happen."

Substitute caregivers provide whatever assistance, supervision and companionship a loved one needs. They have been trained for this work and are supervised by social service agencies that provide similar services in the community.

To be eligible to receive respite services, a caregiver must be the primary, unpaid caregiver of a person with a disability who is 18 years or older. The program provides services whether a caregiver needs a few hours to go to the doctor or run errands or whether he or she needs a longer break to recover from an illness or simply rest and relax.

If you or someone you know may benefit from respite care, call the Healthy Aging Partnership's free and confidential information and assistance line at 1-844-348-KING (1-844-348-5464) or visit the Web site at www.4elders.org to get more information.

You can also call 1-844-348-KING for answers to any of your questions about living a healthier life as an older adult. HAP and 1-844-348-KING are generously supported by HAP partner agencies, Puget Sound Energy and the Comprehensive Health Education Foundation.