Saturday, December 30th, 2006
Celina agency gives a respite to those giving their all for others
By Laura Walker
Ashley Bruns, of Celina, and Family Care Options worker, Sherry Johnson, Celina,. . .
Imagine caring for a person every second and every minute of every day; never getting a vacation, time to take a nap or lie in the bathtub. This is the life led by caregivers.
The only relief for a caregiver is respite care - something not found in too many small towns.
Respite care is short-term, temporary care provided for people with disabilities while their families or caregivers take a break -often referred to as the "gift of time."
Why is respite care important?
Some caregivers have never been away from their child or patient for even five minutes.
Family Care Options, Celina, offers respite care, which includes transportation, outings, home activity aid and personal care for local disabled adults and children. Every day they have helpers in local homes and every weekend overnight guests at Family Care's home at 217 S. Cherry St., Celina.
"When you have a child with a disability, for the rest of your life you have to get two people ready each day, including two sets of clothes, two showers, two sets of teeth to brush," said Dawn Schilling, program administrator at Family Care Options.
Respite care provides a needed and earned break for those who care for others on a long-term basis. Studies have proven these breaks aid in the well-being and health of caregivers, she said.
Respite care also is good for the disabled individual, giving that person an opportunity to build new relationships, Schilling said.
"Everyone who comes here enjoyscoming ... They get to be away from mom and dad for awhile and be with other people," she added.
One female client goes shopping and eats out with Family Care staff on a regular basis, along with coming to the facility to play cards, Schilling said. Her helper does the driving and manages her shopping. This ensures she purchases the items she needs and stays on budget, while teaching her to eventually do this on her own, Schilling said
The organization was started by a group of families with children who have disabilities. The families realized the need for respite care and soon formed a board.
Ruth Kremer of Chickasaw is familiar with Family Care Options and hopes to one day being able to take her son, Kyle, 22, to the facility.
Kyle is severally mentally disabled and requires more attention than the average person can handle, Kremer said.
Kyle uses a wheelchair and needs someone who can lift him. Kremer and her husband, Virgil, are finding it increasingly difficult to care for Kyle as they enter their 50s.
"He is a 24-hour kid; he needs help with everything," his mother said.
Kyle goes to Cheryl Ann programs during the day and comes home worn out, just like a preschooler, she said. On days when Cheryl Ann has early release or is not in regular session, Kremer must leave work to be home to care for him. She said it is really hard to hold down a full-time job.
"Don't get me wrong, Kyle is the love of our life," Kremer said. "I wouldn't trade our situation for anything. He gives so much love."
She described Kyle as full of love and as ornery. He loves to wrestle, sing and watch his nieces and nephews play.
She said he has given the family much joy; it is just difficult trying to get away for a break.
Kyle does not speak and is at the cognitive age of 2. He can feed himself, if everything is cut up, his mother said.
"You can never leave sight of him; he is always the focal point," she said. "Vacation is nearly impossible, because where do you take a person who has that many needs?"
The family has a vacation scheduled and plan to take Kyle to an out-of-state respite facility that accepts the waivers the Kremer family can use. Family Care Options currently does not accept these particular waivers, but Kremer said she plans to use the Celina facility in the future as they begin to accept more state waivers.
Family Care Options started about 13 months ago in a large, two-story brick house on the corner of Cherry and Fayette streets. As need grew, it was realized wheelchairs and second floors do not mix. Around this time Stolly Insurance moved out of one-story building behind the house.
Property owner Damian Dorsten allowed Family Care to move into the former insurance building, and St. Johns builders renovated the area to meet the requirements for respite care. Wider doorways, an open living room/kitchen area and chimes on the doors updated the office to be homey and functional.
ARC, a local organization that supports disabled individuals, is a strong backer of Family Care Options, Schilling said. They helped start the 501(c)3 tax-exempt charitable organization in December 2004 and recently donated a washer and dryer for the facility. Now when a client goes home, their caregiver does not have to immediately do laundry, Schilling said.
Family Care Options accepts customers who pay upon arrival, and customers who pay through state waiver programs. The cost varies greatly with the degree of care needed. An average rate is about $12 an hour, but Family Care Options tries not to turn anyone away, Schilling said. Donations and state programs aid in paying for clients who cannot pay.
The organization offers care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Guests can stay an hour or a predetermined amount of time. Before accepting a guest, the guardian and potential guest will go through an intake process to ensure the organization has the facilities and capabilities to care for the guest.
A popular service of Family Care Options is monthly evenings out, such as a special New Year's Eve party. This allows caregivers a time to relax or go out on the town.
In the summer, the group offers a day camp for two weeks with morning or evening sessions. The guests were able to go to the park, play games and have snack time.
Family Care Options is run by a board of seven members and eight employees. Schilling said she could use three more employees, and volunteers are welcome.
What Family Care Options provides:
Family Care Options in Celina currently has about 17 routine guests, with many others turned away due to a lack of space.
Program Administrator Dawn Schilling said she believes a bigger facility with about 25 employees could be filled with guests on a regular basis. The nearest respite care facilities are in Berne, Ind., Dayton and Lima, she said.
Family Care Options' seven-member board dreams of having a facility similar to the one in Berne, which is much larger. A new facility would need a kitchen, living room, play room, bedrooms and handicapped accessible bathrooms and showers.
When Gary Kremer of Chickasaw learned about respite care and the need in Mercer County, he eagerly volunteered to raise funds to help Family Care Options get a bigger facility.
His inspiration has come from being a truck driver for many years and listening to XM radio, particularly DJ Bill Mac, who encourages truckers to pick a charity and become involved.
Kremer and his wife understand the need for respite care - their extended families have wheelchair-bound members.
Kremer said he has watched people who have a handicapped family member pour their heart and soul into keeping them at house. They wear themselves out taking care of the child and earning enough money to take care for them.
"They work their butts off to keep their child at the house," he said.
Kremer said he has different fundraising ideas and knows the dream facility for Family Care Options will need the help of local lumber yards, plumbers, electricians and others. He is hoping for their assistance with the project, starting with engineering plans and a site.
Kremer plans to host a picnic in April for all of the families who use the current facility and is hoping to host a motorcycle ride-in to raise funds for the group.
When questioned on the location of the dream facility, Schilling said she didn't have a specific location in mind. She said there are many benefits to the current location on the corner of Fayette and Cherry streets, such as being able to walk uptown, to the lake, movie theater or out to eat.
- Laura Walker