♪♪ You deserve a break today… ♪♪
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Embrace respite care. It's totally worth it.
We were reticent about respite care in the beginning. We thought that while Mom was not cognitive enough to live on her own anymore, she was too cognitive to escape feeling like she was being "dumped off for babysitting" with a group of strangers who were in way worse shape than her. Then last spring we went through a three-week period where we weren't finding enough for her to do during the day, she wasn't sleeping at night (so we weren't sleeping either), she was restless, and her anxiety was at "Sundowner's all damn day long!" levels. My sister and I were losing our minds from lack of sleep and a failure to coax even the briefest of smiles from her.
It's debilitating to fail at your job everyday. We finally decided we had to get help, or Mom had to go to a home. We choose help.
We started with a visit to her doctor. Dr. Monica has become a god to us, and not just because she always has the cutest, most stylish shoes as you would hope a god would. She in turn has come to trust us, to know that Mom is our first priority, and if we say we need help it's in Mom's best interest not ours. So sleeping pills to the rescue! Mom takes a low dose of mirtazapine every night, and while we still have one, maybe two restless nights a week, it's been 100% manageable.
Secondly, we faced our own anxieties and began utilizing day respite centers. It has made a world of difference.
Thelma's Place - Canby, Oregon
We weren't sure Thelma's Place was going to be a good fit at first. Mom and I went and had lunch with the staff and participants to check it out before signing her up, and while I was impressed with the small group size (8-10 participants a day), and the clear friendship between the participants and the staff, Mom was so-so about everything but the dessert. We gave it a shot anyway, and it's been great. While Mom can still be less than thrilled when we take her to Thelma's (par for the course anytime she thinks we're leaving her anywhere), she has a big smile, hug, and kiss goodbye for everyone when we pick her up.
I knew we had a winner when I walked her in one day, and instead of her don't-leave-me face, she turned to me and said "I want to stay, but will you..." While she couldn't finish her sentence, I knew what she was trying to convey; she was letting me know she was staying whether I did or not - she just wanted to make sure that was okay with me.
Thelma's Place is open Monday through Friday, 10am until 4pm. Mom goes twice a week, and we pay $15 an hour for Mom's time there. The cost is less for participants who attend more often. They also have a location in Redmond, which incorporates inter-generational care, mixing childcare and respite care. Uh... genius! Old people and kids are like peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter, tequila and county lock-up! Which brings me to another day respite center...
Gentog - Tigard, Oregon
Gentog is the opposite of Thelma's. It's large (I'm guessing 15-30 participants at a time), and it's lively. Two times a day seniors and kids come together to share each other's company. Mom took to Gentog right away, and we had one particular staff member who always brought an instant smile to Mom's face. So we were doing one day a week at Thelma's, and one day a week at Gentog, but over time, Mom began showing a clear preference for Thelma's. We started to see her "Get-me-out-of-here!" face when we would pick her up and knew it was no longer for her - Thelma's is more Mom's style.
Gentog is open Monday through Friday from 6:30am to 6:30pm, making it a great options for care partners who are working "real" jobs in addition to care giving. It also has Saturday hours, 10am to 5pm. We paid $20 an hour for Mom's time there.
A Place at the Center - Milwaukie, Oregon
The Milwaukie Center offers A Place at the Center (APAC) every Wednesday from noon until 3:30. Despite it's being the world's worst name for a respite joint, it's a great 3.5 hours for Mom. They sing, they have pet-therapy, they watch programs, have discussions. It's another small program, maybe 10 participants tops, with lovely, caring volunteers and a professional from the Milwaukie Center staff overseeing the program.
APAC is $30 a week, making it the most affordable option we've found so far. If they change their name to Glitterpants Respite for those who are winning the Most Birthdays Game, I'd certainly pay more.
These are the ones we've checked out. For more options, Clackamas County offers a great list of day respite centers here. If you follow the list to the bottom, they also include adult placement agencies, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, a whole slew of other resources you may be looking for. If you live elsewhere, check with your city, county or state to see if they have an aging and disability resource department to help connect you to respite centers in your area.
If you have suggestions for respite options, I'd love to hear 'em!