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Respite care offered on demand

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Kayla Bunge
April 25, 2010
— Caregivers and their loved ones with disabilities streamed into a large room at the Inspiration Ministries Retreat Center.

Caregivers checked in their loved ones for a few days in a camp-like setting. They handed over paperwork, medications and luggage, relieved to be getting a break from the day-to-day stress of caring for their children, siblings or friends.


The people with disabilities absorbed the milieu. They gathered around an indoor fireplace, excited for activities and field trips.


Inspiration Ministries is a Christian-based residential community and respite care provider with a sprawling campus at County F and Highway 67.


Last month, it expanded its respite care offerings to better serve caregivers and their loved ones, said Betty Mulloy, vice president of marketing and development.


The organization long has offered respite care camps. Caregivers enroll their loved ones in three-night, three-day camps offered the third week of each month. Caregivers can get away, whether to focus on their full-time job or to take a vacation, and their loved ones can participate in activities in a community setting.


In March, the organization launched a flexible respite care program.


“It’s on-demand care,” Mulloy said. “They don’t need to fit into three or four days on our calendar. … They can take as much time as needed.”


The respite care programs at Inspiration Ministries are different from typical respite care.


Organizations usually provide respite care in-home or at a nursing home or similar facility.


But Inspiration Ministries offers respite care at their camp-like campus, which includes the retreat center, fire pit and nature trails.


“It’s a vacation-style experience,” Mulloy said. “They have a chance to come and play, make new friends, see old friends. It’s a place to breathe.”


Pamela Grow, 56, of Racine is cognitively challenged. Her foster father cares for her, but he and his girlfriend wanted to go on vacation. Grow did, too.


The family turned to Inspiration Ministries.


Grow, who works three days a week at a factory, was taking her first vacation from her job since she was hired two and a half years ago.


“I’m happy to be away for a while,” she said. “You can’t work, work, work all the time.”


Grow was looking forward to nature walks, movie night, worship time and socializing with other campers.


Sue Olson of the Milwaukee area cares for her brother, who is developmentally disabled and has a number of health problems, including dementia. She also works full time. She often gets little time to herself.


“I can’t be the caregiver I need to be for him if I don’t take care of myself,” she said. “I’m not the Eveready bunny. I can do this, but I need breaks.”


Olson previously has taken her brother to summer camps and respite camps at Inspiration Ministries, but she always has had to fit her time away around the camp schedule. She convinced the organization that a flexible program would serve her family—and many other caregivers—better.


Craig Pape, vice president of ministry services, said respite care is important for caregivers and their loved ones.


“There’s a high burnout rate,” he said. “Respite is an opportunity for both people to step away, get rested and recharged.”


Mulloy said time away also renews and energizes the relationship between a caregiver and the special-needs person receiving care.


“The biggest gift that respite care provides people is to go and do things on their own and then come home and have new stories to tell each other,” she said. “For these people, that’s so important because their lives are so tied to one another.”



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