This week we have a special blog takeover to bring you! At Directive Health, we know that collaboration is key, and it is our pleasure to hand the blog over to the Tennessee Respite Coalition. Their mission is critical, admirable, and we are thrilled they are here to share their story. Make sure to like their socials and donate using the link below.
Twenty Years of Respite
By: Dr. Megan Schwalm
Executive Director, Tennessee Respite Coalition
In 1996, a small group of individuals interested in respite met to discuss the status of respite in Tennessee. They called themselves the Tennessee Respite Coalition and set goals of raising respite awareness and increasing respite services in Tennessee. This group received funding to further their efforts, which included developing a universal access point for respite and organizing Respite Awareness Days at the state Capitol.
As the organization evolved, the TRC transformed into an independent nonprofit in 2003, which allowed the agency to receive grants and donations to support respite services. In 2006, Congress passed the Lifespan Respite Act. Three years later, Tennessee was one of the first seven states to receive a three-year Lifespan Respite grant. Through its work, the TRC gained national presence and developed connections with respite leaders across the country.
Today, the original goals set by that small group of volunteers remain at the heart of the TRC’s mission to enhance the quality of life for caregivers throughout Tennessee. The main program of the TRC is its original Respite Voucher Program. The Respite Voucher program provides family-directed respite vouchers to caregivers to defray some of the cost of respite so they may take a break from caregiving duties. Each year, approximately 850 caregivers receive reimbursement for roughly 40,000 hours of respite.
Caregiving for a family member is a tiring, hard, thankless, isolating and emotionally draining job that does not provide paid vacation or sick leave. Many family caregivers wear themselves down to the point they are no longer able to care for their loved one in their home, thus requiring nursing home or institutional placement. Respite is the gift of time for caregivers to allow them to take a temporary break to take care of themselves. Just a short break can refresh a caregiver enough to continue.
The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey found that family members providing care to both the aging and chronically ill report higher levels of stress, poorer health and a greater tendency to engage in unhealthy behaviors to alleviate stress. Caregiving strain is often worsened by certain kinds of caregiving demands (dementia and end-of-life care) and in circumstances where caregivers do not have enough resources (knowledge, skills, social support, respite, and community services) and can be overwhelmed. Without respite time, family caregivers are often not able to engage in activities to decrease stress, attend doctor appointments to address their own health issues, and remain socially isolated themselves. Respite provides caregivers with the gift of time so they can step away from their caregiving duties, tend to their own needs, and come back recharged and refreshed.
In addition to the Respite Voucher Program, the Tennessee Respite Coalition operates the Senior Volunteer Program. Through the Senior Volunteer Program, senior volunteers provide companionship to home-bound individuals who are dependent upon a full-time caregiver. The TRC operates this program in Davidson, Sumner, and Rutherford counties where 40 volunteers serve approximately 80 home-bound seniors each year, giving their caregivers a break from caregiving duties.
In 2023, the Tennessee Respite Coalition will celebrate its twentieth anniversary. In January the TRC will kick off a year-long Twenty for Twenty campaign where we ask for supporters to commit to becoming $20 per month recurring donors. To join us in celebrating by becoming a Twenty for Twenty recurring donor and supporting caregivers across Tennessee, please visit https://tnrespite.org/donate/.