Local Ministries

RESPITE volunteers trained to provide caregiver relief

Pat Scheibel, a retired physical therapist who has been involved in RESPITE for 25 years, provides a brief history of the program nationally and in the archdiocese. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Jeanne Gorman
Special to The Leaven

LEAWOOD — Opening with a song so apt that it could have been written with them in mind — “The Servant Song” — a group from the Church of Nativity here gathered Feb. 2 for a training session in the RESPITE ministry of the parish.

The participants included a recent college graduate who, after volunteering with Meals on Wheels during college, wanted to continue meaningful volunteerism and thought the RESPITE program would provide her with that opportunity.

Other participants included several retired women — some with medical backgrounds, but some without. All were simply hoping to learn how to provide assistance to those caregivers needing a break from their caregiving activities.

Dr. Catherine Powers, who will assume the Nativity RESPITE coordinator role from Scheibel, welcomes guests to the Feb. 2 RESPITE training session. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Pat Scheibel, a retired physical therapist, has been involved in RESPITE for 25 years. Scheibel provided a brief history of the program nationally and in the archdiocese. She explained that the program at Nativity and other archdiocesan parishes was an offshoot of one started in 1982 by the National Council of Catholic Women.

The word “respite,” of course, means “breather” or “break.” But the acronym RESPITE, said Scheibel, was chosen to incorporate the “Renewal: spiritual/temporal” aspects provided by volunteers to receiving families — “the spiritual foundation of the program.” She went on to explain her role as coordinator of the Nativity ministry and emphasized that RESPITE was not to be confused with a hospice program. Rather, the goal was to provide relief for people who were caring for loved ones (mostly those with dementia) in their homes.

Some of these caregivers have little support from family or friends and appreciated time away from their care receivers to recharge their batteries.

Scheibel stressed how difficult it was for caregivers to ask for help, but in her experience, the caregivers appreciated the assistance, and many became friends over time. Nativity has worked with some families for more than four years.

Dr. Catherine Powers, who will assume the Nativity coordinator role from Scheibel, explained that statistics show that caregivers die sooner than they might because they often fail to take care of themselves and are worn down while caring for their loved ones.

Others shared they had been caregivers for their parents or other loved ones and recognized caregiver burnout was very real. Even a short time away from caregiving duties — like a lunch with friends or a trip to the store — allows the caregivers to refresh and renew their spirits, which helps them continue to care for their loved ones. They believed that providing this time away for caregivers was a need that the parish volunteers could fill — and that their companionship with the care receivers would be beneficial to them as well.

Pat Scheibel, right, has been involved in RESPITE for 25 years. Here, she talks with Natalie about the ministry during a Feb. 2 training session at Church of the Nativity, Leawood. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

As the morning progressed, the volunteers, experienced and new, learned what to expect in their interactions with care receivers and caregivers and how to navigate challenging relationships with care receivers.

They also learned how to respond in various situations, including medical emergencies, and how much both care receivers and caregivers appreciate the opportunity to talk with the volunteers.

The participants also received printed materials that included tips about performing RESPITE services. The leaders emphasized that volunteers would not be asked to provide care if they were not comfortable in a particular setting or didn’t believe they could perform certain tasks.

Catherine Powers presents during a RESPITE training session on Feb. 2 at Church of the Nativity in Leawood. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Both male and female volunteers are needed, participants were told, as both sexes have unique gifts to share. Virtus training and a background check are required for RESPITE volunteers, in addition to the parish training program. 

But it all starts with the desire to serve those who spend their lives serving others.

It all starts with a servant heart.

To learn more about Nativity’s RESPITE program, contact Catherine Powers by email at: capowers@kc.rr.com.

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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