Friday, August 3, 2012

What does "respite" mean?

Sometimes when I mention "respite" to someone they try to act like the know what I mean, but I can tell from the look on their face that they have no idea what "respite" means. It's kind of the same reaction I get when I mention "Occupational Therapy" or "Proprioceptive."

When I looked up the official meaning of the word "respite" (that, to me, means, "relief") on Wikipedia, this is the basis of the meaning: Respite care is the provision of short-term, temporary relief to those who are caring for family members who might otherwise require permanent placement in a facility outside the home.

I read all the way through the definition and the last two paragraphs were what hit home for me. So I want to highlight a section on Wikipedia's definition of respite care:

Even though many families take great joy in providing care to their loved ones so that they can remain at home, the physical, emotional and financial consequences for the family caregiver can be overwhelming without some support, such as respite. Respite provides a break for the family caregiver, which may prove beneficial to the health of the caregiver. Three fifths of family caregivers age 19-64 surveyed recently by the Commonwealth Fund reported fair or poor health, one or more chronic conditions, or a disability, compared with only one-third of non caregivers.
Respite has been shown to help sustain family caregiver health and wellbeing, avoid or delay out-of-home placements, and reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect. An outcome based evaluation pilot study showed that respite may also reduce the likelihood of divorce and help sustain marriages.

Yesterday it wasn't my family or a group of student volunteers who gave me respite for our children, but it was women and children in my own neighborhood.

One mom came with her 3 eager-to-help children and played with our kids, taught them some ballet steps, and spent time getting to know them. Another volunteer is a young soon-to-be student who didn't even know me until yesterday, she just wanted to help and get to know my kids. Amazing!

My kids loved it. They were so excited to have people show that they care for them and spend quality time with them while I was out getting so many needed things done without 3 overstimulated children in tow. I was able to make the final payment for our conference room for the Fragile X Association of Utah's Parade of Pumpkins, get a lot of grocery shopping done, and get some errands I needed done for myself but, never seem to get to. I felt like a new person.

And when I got home, despite my worry as to whether the volunteers would survive my children, everyone was in high spirits.

My heart was so full.

After I gave many hugs to the women and children who gave respite care to our family I sat down.

Yes, I actually sat down.

My kids had been played with and given so much attention. I had accomplished so many things that I wasn't bogged down by my stress of how I was to get things done.

So I sat.

Then Baby walked up to me with her sippy cup in hand.

And, for the first time in a long time, I just sat with Baby and held her.

Not because she was crying.

Not because she needed sensory input.

Not because Sister or Brother had used her as their sensory input device.

Not because I felt obligated to give her attention.

I held her because I could.

Because I wanted to.

I squished her little thighs,

cupped her little knees,

tweaked her little toes,

smelled her little chin,

listened to her drink,

watched her eyelashes flutter,

and just sat in an atmosphere of relief and contentment.

You can bet that this kind of care and involvement in my neighborhood will make a world of difference  for me and my family and we will not fall into the statistics of poor health, neglect or marriage woes.

Thank you all.

2 remarks:

Karen Mortensen said...

What a wonderful story. So glad they came over to help.

Mariah said...

As much as we miss you down here, I'm grateful you are there will all of the kindness, support and opportunities that come with it.