Several sites in Orleans now offering respite for caregivers

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 12 September 2023 at 3:21 pm

New program, Caregivers Revitalize, alternates on Thursdays in Medina and Holley

ALBION – A new respite program in Orleans County is a project very much needed in our under-resourced county, said Nyla Gaylord, acting director of United Way of Orleans County.

The community respite program called “Caregivers Revitalize” was made possible by a $290,000 Exhale Family Caregiver grant applied for by United Way in partnership with Community Action of Orleans and Genesee.

The need for respite services for caregivers was identified a year and a half ago by researchers for the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation’s Legacy Fund. A lack of caregiver services in Orleans County was noticed as they were looking at under-served populations.

“The average caregiver spends more than 24 hours a week providing care, so a three-hour break can be very helpful,” Gaylord said. “Many people are so busy juggling everything going on in their lives that they don’t realize they are caregivers and deserve a break. Sometimes people need a friend to encourage them to take a break. Being a caregiver for an older adult loved one is an honor – it’s also really intense. More than half of us are in that role, many of us without even realizing it, me included. All those ways you are ‘just helping out, mowing the lawn, picking up meds and groceries, calling every night to check in – that’s called ‘caregiving.’”

In early 2022, the Foundation reached out to Matt Holland, then grant writer for United Way of Orleans County and asked him to prepare a proposal to respond to this funding opportunity to serve Orleans County’s high percentage of seniors.

Holland went through a series of online training sessions to understand the needs of caregivers and worked closely with the YMCA and Community Action to develop the program model and proposal.

The program was slow to get off the ground due to the difficulty in obtaining staff, Gaylord said. However, the program is now up and running at the YMCA in Medina and the Community Center in Holley, under the leadership of project coordinator Dana Jessmer.

“We are very pleased that we have such excellent staff,” Gaylord said. “It was worth it to take the time to make sure we found the right people for this important project.”

Caregiver’s Revitalize meets from 1 to 4 p.m. every first and third Thursday at the YMCA in Medina and the second and fourth Thursday in Holley.

Jessmer said a respite program is vital to the community, not only for the caregivers, but for the care recipients as well.

“Our participants seem to enjoy the hours spent in our program, while I believe the caregivers enjoy the respite even more,” Jessmer said. “It allows them time to go to an appointment, catch up on errands or just have some downtime.”

One caregiver taking advantage of Caregiver’s Revitalize at the Holley Community Center asked to be identified only as Marilyn. Her husband has dementia and she began searching for caregiver respite. She said the discovered the one in Knowlesville, but it was quite a drive from their home. She had contacted the Office for the Aging only to learn at that time they didn’t have any caregiver service.

“I’ve been to Caregiver’s Revitalize in Holley three times now, and it is so convenient,” she said. “It’s such a relief to know I can leave him with someone reliable. And I get some time to breathe.”

Jessmer encourages people who are caring for loved ones to leave a message for her or Kate Cudzillo at (585) 209-3416 with a good time to talk. The Caregivers Revitalize-Orleans County, NY Facebook page is also a good source of information on the program and planned activities, Gaylord added.

Before the Caregivers Revitalize program was funded, the Abundant Harvest Church had started a volunteer respite program from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fellowship Hall in Knowlesville.

In July, the Office for the Aging started a respite program called “Caregiver Connection” at the Nutrifair site at 16 East Academy Street in Albion. They meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Supervised activities include exercise, crafts, games and a nutritional lunch, all at no charge. Anyone planning to take advantage of the service must pre-register by the Monday before the date attending by calling Samantha at 589-2863 or the Office for the Aging at 589-3191.

“This means there are seven respite opportunities a month now for Orleans County residents,” Gaylord said. “We are looking forward to working together with the Office for the Aging and other programs to expand services throughout Orleans County and into Genesee County. Our goal is to make caregiver respite services sustainable after grant funding ends.”

As United Way of Orleans County celebrates September as United Way Month, they remind local residents that community support of United Way is one way to help fund these services.

“This service needs to be a community priority as more and more families will be challenged to care for their loved ones at home,” Gaylord said. “Given the demographics of our county, with more than 20 percent of our population over the age of 65, the aging of the baby boomer generation is resulting in a growing number of people in need of care, with fewer available caregivers. The stress on caregivers is increasing and they need help.”