Respite offers providers relief

Caregivers get a needed break

POLK COUNTY -- Karen needs to go to a parent workshop on autism that would teach her skills in raising her son.

But she doesn't trust someone who isn't trained to care for him. She can't afford to pay a skilled provider, so she misses out on the training.

John and Beth would love to have an evening out alone.

But caring for their John's partially paralyzed mother takes all their extra time and energy.

At times they worry their marriage is suffering beyond repair under the strain.

Real-life scenarios like these fictitious ones are playing out every day in Polk County. Families caring for special needs relatives are buckling under the responsibility of caring for their loved one.

With the failure of Measure 28 and the subsequent budget cuts in Human Services, more families are going to face the daily stress, said Kathy Wenos, Polk Lifespan Respite Network's manager.

Research conducted by the federal government has proven that even a brief respite from the demands of caring for a special needs person can bring immense dividends to the family.

The risk of depression, illness and substance abuse is greatly reduced when family care givers can take time off without worrying about the level of care and cost of someone else providing the care.

That's where the respite network comes in. It can connect trained care givers with people who need a break from their responsibilities at home.

Lifespan Respite care is temporary, short-term care for children, adults and seniors with special needs, health care concerns, chronic illness, emotional and behavioral disorders and those at risk of abuse and/or neglect.

In many instances, there is financial assistance available, either through the respite budget or through connecting with other resources.


For families with special needs children, limited grant funds are available from the Polk County Commission on Children and Families to help some families pay for respite care.

"Caring for relatives with special needs can be exhausting on every level -- the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial," said Wenos, who coordinates the local network from her office at the Dallas Family Resource Center.

"We're here to help offset the fall out."

She said information about the grant, entitled "A Break For Families," has been sent home from the school districts to families with special needs children.

"Respite care is an essential part of the overall support that families may need to keep their child with a disability or chronic illness at home," according to the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.

"Respite services are intended to provide assistance to the family, and to prevent "burnout" and family disintegration."

Caring for a child with disabilities or severe health problems can be a full-time job, leading to isolation from church, friends and family. Even grocery shopping can become difficult to handle.

Often, families who would not hesitate to call for relief from the constant care of their typical children hesitate to call for relief from the care of their child with a disability or special health care need.

Many would rather not have respite than worry about the level of care their child is receiving at home.

"It is obvious to anyone who has lived this life that respite care becomes a vital service -- a necessity, not a luxury," said Wenos.


Some of the respite providers work within the Faith In Action Volunteer Care givers network, a faith-based coalition providing short-term respite care for families and individuals.


The network is recruiting respite care providers to join its roster. An orientation for new providers is being held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in Dallas.

More information is available by calling Wenos at 503-623-0264.

Another orientation is being presented by Marion Lifespan Respite Network, Polk's sister network, Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency building, 2475 Center St. NE.

More information is available by calling Lee Ann Ryals at 503-588-1778.


Anyone interested in the respite care program is invited to attend Lifespan Respite's quarterly meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the Dallas Resource Center, 326 Main St.

More information on any Lifespan Respite Network services is available by calling Kathy Wenos at 503-623-0264.


In the "A Break For Families" respite program, direct services are offered to families with special needs children living at home.

"But the benefits to the community at large are all those that accompany a healthy family in the community as opposed to a family at risk," said Wenos.

Polk County has a total 913 eligible children reported receiving special education on the December 2002 Special Education Child Count from the Oregon Department of Education.

The program was funded through the Polk County Commission on Children and Families in large part because it touches on many of the state commission's stated objectives, including their published goals of "Strong, Nurturing Families" and "Healthy, Thriving Children."

Within those goals, respite addresses:

♦ Stress coping skills.

♦ Depression or other mental issues.

♦ Child maltreatment rates.

♦ Adequacy of child care to meet family needs.

♦ Family time and routines.

♦ Family violence levels.

♦ Adequacy of social support resources.

♦ Rates of intervention services for children with developmental or other needs.

♦ Safe, permanent homes.

♦ Nurturing, responsive care.

♦ Drug and alcohol use and abuse prevention.

♦Quality of parent-child/youth interactions.

More information on any Lifespan Respite Network services is available by calling Wenos at 503-623-0264.


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