Are you taking care of someone who cannot be left alone? An aging parent, or a grandparent? Someone whose needs keep you close by all day long, and all through the night as well? Are you then the caregiver, the one who is responsible and who might as well be chained in place?
Perhaps you would like to have a break; maybe once or twice a week. Get out to do some errands, or take a long walk; maybe go to the movies or just have some time alone to be able to take deep breaths and get a look at the rest of the world for an hour or two.
If this is the case, we might be able to help. We are a group of a dozen or more men and women in Rappahannock County who you might call friendly visitors. We go by the official name, RappRespite. Indeed, we have a website that is just being built that is called rapprespite.org. That is our title and here is our statement of purpose:
A free, county program offering temporary relief for caregivers.
We have just had our first meeting. We are all volunteers. We want to be able to give you a break. We don’t want any money from you. We won’t stay long when we visit the house, just time enough to let you step out for an hour or two.
There were sixteen of us in the session at the Rappahannock County Library on Monday, August 1st–four men and a dozen women. We were called together by Denise Chandler, who invited us with a detailed and somewhat moving email message about her time over three years as her husband Donald descends further into dementia. As Denise says, “I simply cannot leave my husband alone.”
Denise hopes to organize people who will simply be pals to show up and give a true caregiver a break from the chores and cares. She says, “We will be companions, maybe listen to music or do puzzles with the one being cared for. Perhaps watch videos together, or read a book.” Denise added, most emphatically, “what we are NOT is doctors or nurses or housekeepers. We are–well, adult-sitters,” said Ms. Chandler.
Sort of like baby-sitters, she means, but for adults instead.
Rappahannock Respite is now merely a group of people beginning to come together around an idea for service. Among the sixteen in Monday’s meeting there was some sentiment for not becoming too organized, but to exist as a group of friendly neighbors helping out.
What happens next? Hal Hunter, Ellie Clark, Jill Duvall, and Jenny Fitzhugh will work together on what Hal calls “an intake form,” a piece of paper that starts the process of signing up volunteers. Indeed, it was Mr. Hunter who, early in the meeting, asked aloud, “how do we find out who needs help?” That is, who is deeply and firmly locked into attending someone who needs care and who could use a break.
Throughout the meeting there was talk of “outreach.” Perhaps getting notices in the weekly paper, and/or in church bulletins; perhaps circulating a poster or a card that would inspire people to, in a manner of speaking, raise their hands to say “need help over here.” There was some discussion of whether the photo on such a card or poster should feature a sad face, or a happy one.
If you’d like more information, you can telephone Hal Hunter (540-937-4744) or Denise Chandler (540-522-0188).
What also will happen is another meeting in two weeks, at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, August 15th, at the Rappahannock County Public Library. Come on along. We’ll set up the chairs for you.
by Jed Duvall, Amissville