Respite project created

County trying to offer relief for caregivers

POLK COUNTY -- Everybody knows somebody who could use a break.

But what about the people who care for someone at home with special needs?

Caregivers are often isolated, often unable to pay for the kind of specialized care their loved one needs.

Polk County officials are trying to help. They are putting together a respite care program that would bring in substitute caregivers.

Not for long.

Just long enough for primary caregivers to catch a breather and recharge their batteries.

The program, Lifespan Respite, is actually part of a national network. The budding county effort will represent the program at the local level.

This is state Respite Awareness Week and the program now stands ready to link families with providers, both volunteer and paid.

Respite leaders are also ready to address gaps in the system, to connect caregivers and families with training and resources.

"We're very excited about where we're at right now," said Lou Ann Grosch, systems development manager for Polk County and the lead person in developing Polk County's respite network.

"We have a dedicated council made up of local volunteers. We have a firm foundation and exciting plans for development. Now we just need to add more families and more caregivers into the mix."

A press conference April 24 in Washington, D.C., will announce the launch of the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2002. The act was written by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and edited by Oregon's program leader, Debbie Bowers, and her staff.

"We've been working closely with Clinton's staff to ensure that the national legislation had language that we could support, especially since the name was changed to include Lifespan.

"We are happy with the changes in the language that we suggested and are excited about the fact that the importance of supporting family caregivers is being raised at a national level," Bowers said.

"We should be proud of the great strides Oregon has taken to identify, develop and implement caregiver supports for all caregivers regardless of the age or individual receiving the care."

In Oregon, legislators passed the Lifespan Respite Care bill in 1997, establishing the Lifespan Respite Care Program to help local communities in building networks.

"What we hope to see this time next year is a stable respite care system, with networks in all counties, supported at the local, state and national level," Bowers said.

"That cannot happen without strong local partnerships."

What respite care basically means is peace of mind, Grosch said.

Say a single mother with a 12-year-old boy with severe autism has to go into the hospital for emergency surgery.

With respite care, she can do it knowing that an experienced person is taking care of her son.

It means no one caring for a family member has to go it alone.

More information on respite care is available by calling 503-623-6105

Anyone interested in serving on the Lifespan Respite Council or one of its committees or having a speaker make a presentation can call Grosch at 503-623-9664.


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