Group Respite Keeps Seniors Connected

Six years ago, Respite Angels began as a volunteer group in Estherville. The group aids those who are caring for a loved one with a long-term illness or disability in the home. Volunteers visit the homes for a few hours each week, allowing the caretaker, who is often related to the person they are caring for, to leave the home and do other tasks, such as grocery shopping or just have coffee with friends. The group has since expanded and now serves Palo Alto, Dickinson, Clay and Emmet counties.

As part of this on-going expansion, Respite Angels will be offering a free group respite care from 9-11:30 a.m. each Friday, beginning Sept. 23, at Calvary Methodist Church in Arnold's Park. Anyone from any of the four counties is welcome to participate.

"When we first started thinking of the group respite, we saw that it would give an opportunity (for the caregivers) to have a second time out during the week. Once we started talking to people, we discovered there was a big need for people to be social," Kelly Schultz, Respite Angels director, said.

According to Schultz, the group will participate in different activities each week, such as crafting, baking or inviting a performer to demonstrate a talent for the group. Schultz also noted that Thomasina Hegg, former activities director for Echo Plus, will be helping to plan some of the group's activities.

Hegg first heard about the group respite during a presentation at Elderbridge, where she is now employed, and decided to be involved. Hegg said she hopes that the program will act as a "springboard" for the other 29 counties that Elderbridge serves.

"I thought this was an excellent thing for caregivers in our area," Hegg said. "I'm so excited that it is coming to our area. We have needed a group respite in our area for a long time."

Hegg went on to say that the group respite will provide relief for the caregivers, who are often very busy providing for their loved ones.

"Without having some place to go or someone to fill in, the caregiver often ends up passing away before their loved one," Hegg said.

In addition, to the physical stress of being a caregiver, Hegg noted the emotional stress. Hegg said that caretakers, though they may not intend to, may develop negative feelings, such as depression, as they provide care.

"This will help with the depression that some of the caregivers — well let's face it, all caregivers go through depression some time during their caregiving career."

Schultz noted that Respite Angels is seeking volunteers to help facilitate the Friday sessions. There will be a training session conducted on Sept. 16 which will cover interactions with clients, safety and a general overview of the program.

Hegg noted that donations of both money and things such as craft supplies would be welcome.

"This is going to take a village to run smoothly," she said.
Those interested in participating or volunteering may contact Schultz at 712-229-6064.

Story content Courtesy Spencer Daily Reporter and publisher Paula Buenger

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