“Our Place” Respite Center, an invaluable community resource

by Karen Cifala

Being a caretaker is one of the hardest jobs ever! Every caregiver goes through a “burnout” period when they feel exhausted and stressed out, and just not up to the responsibility. Here are a few burnout signs to look for if you are a caregiver of a loved one:

  • Not wanting to interact with people, especially family and close friends.
  • Not being as interested in your favorite hobbies, such as reading.
  • Thoughts of suicide or hurting your elderly loved one; feeling depressed.
  • Abnormal eating patterns.
  • Abnormal sleeping, not being able to fall asleep or have trouble getting up.
  • Not being able to shake a cold, signs of a reduced immune system or not really feeling good.
  • Irritability that triggers negative responses and actions.

Any of these signs might be a clue that caring is becoming too draining on you and that you need a break.

Our Place Respite Center, formerly housed at the Episcopal Church is Berryville, is now located at Crums Methodist Church, on Crums Church Road in Clarke County. Our Place is a social model program developed by the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging (SAAA) and the Brookdale Foundation, and has been in existence for 14 years. You don’t have to be a Clarke County resident to attend, as SAAA also operates another respite center in Edinburg. You can choose whichever is closest to where you live.

Our Place in Clarke County offers a break to caregivers of persons with dementia, early to mid-stages of Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disabilities. This program provides a benefit to both the caregiver and the participants. It is very affordable, with a sliding scale daily fee ($10­–25) which includes lunch and snacks. Participating adults need to be mobile (which includes using a walker) and able to participate as well as able to toilet themselves. The food is provided by Meals on Wheels and is delivered daily for the participants. Participants need to provide their own transportation to and from the program which runs in Clarke County from 10am to 3pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Reverend Tom Barnard, pastor at Crums United Methodist Church, describes “the church” as, “We are the People of God,” and extends his belief that the church, in some respect, is also a hospital where help is offered in many forms; physically, mentally and spiritually for all people. Pastor Tom is very pleased to be able to provide a space for this community service. Crums Methodist also has an all-volunteer food delivery distribution for needy families. They also have a K-1 st grade “backpack program” where they collect easy to eat snack food donations for needy kids. Please support their youth mission to Rosebud Reservation by attending their fundraiser pancake supper on April 29th at Enders Firehouse, in Berryville, from 5-7:30.

A typical day at Our Place might look like:

  • 10:00 Coffee, snack, greetings, puzzles, brain teasers, word games
  • 10:30 Exercise: balloon volleyball in chairs, basketball, stretching or walking
  • 11:30 Lunch provided by Meals on Wheels
  • 12:30 Rest with background music in reclining chairs with a blanket
  • 1:00 Craft
  • 2:00 Restroom break
  • 2:15 Game, dominoes, checkers, card games
  • 2:45 Prepare for departure

“An invaluable program,” says Tony Hopson, whose wife has been a regular participant at Our Place for several years. Kathy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Our Place has not only freed him up to do regular chores that we take for granted like grocery shopping, but the therapeutic interaction that Our Place offers is very encouraging to Tony as he continues to see small incremental positive changes in his wife’s behavior.

Another wonderful man I talked to, Leroy, who is the sole caretaker of his wife Mareta, explains that her dementia has supercharged her personality and behaviors to the point where she can’t remember what happened even two minutes ago. Our Place has proven to be something that he can’t live without and wishes that they could offer more than three days a week. His wife loves to stay busy every minute and the positive interaction, games, and exercise brings her more pleasure than staying at home all the time. Plus as you can imagine, down time for yourself is non-existent in a situation like this and Our Place gives Leroy the peace of mind that his wife is being well taken care of while he takes some time for himself.

As I walked around the facility I noticed a lovely wall with family collages. Each participant is encouraged to bring in pictures to make a collage of their own. The participants also have raised garden beds to grow vegetables and flowers; they go outside for walks, bake in the kitchen and join in spontaneous singing whenever the moment strikes. How can i forget this song, I heard it at least a dozen times during my interview; “This is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in Him. This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.”

Along with individual care plans and respite for the caregivers, Our Place occasionally offers support group meetings and other collaborative resources for the family.

For more information or to make an appointment with SAAA regarding care for your loved one contact Charity Michael, case manager for SAAA, call 540-635-7141, ext.# 1016

Karen Cifala is a Realtor for Remax Roots in Berryville, VA with a special interest in our aging population. She can be reached on her cell 303-817-9374, office 540-955-0911 or by email. She is happy to take article requests!