Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Time Out
Finding a road to respite

by Carrie Bishop

August 01, 2013

Take a break. Relax. It’s the easiest thing in the world...only, it isn’t easy at all. Every parent needs a break from being a parent. A little time out to hit life’s reset button. It’s hard enough for parents of typical kids to do. It can be near impossible for parents of kids with special needs.

Yet respite is vital. “Parents of a child with a disability need time to rejuvenate. Taking care of themselves is as important as taking care of their child or loved one,” said Tami Wanninger, the director of the Center for Family Leadership at Noble of Indiana.

Suzanne Aaron agrees. As a parent liaison for About Special Kids, Aaron talks to almost 40 families each month. When it comes to parents’ me-time, she says families tend to fall into two categories. It’s either “I desperately need time off and I can’t figure out how to do it,” or “No one else is taking care of my kid and no one else can do it.” It’s never “Holy cow I feel so relaxed from all this respite I continue to get!”

Parents of kids with special needs have increased responsibilities as caregivers. They are keeping up with medications, behavior, therapies, supplements and more. “These things all affect our child’s outcome. If we don’t do it there is a negative effect. The stakes are a little higher,” said Aaron.

The stakes are undeniably high, but what are the stakes for never stopping to refuel?

How to get respite

Respite is accessible for those who want it. Parents just need to know where to look.

First look into Medicaid waivers, which can help pay toward respite services. For families on a waiver wait list, they may be eligible for caregiver support services that will help provide some money for respite while they wait on the waiver to come through.

Parents Night Out and Teen Night Out programs are an affordable, often free way to give parents an evening off. Easter Seals offers regular Parents Night Outs around Indianapolis. Noble of Indiana and several area churches offer similar programs, too.

Adaptive programs are another road to respite. The Monon Community Center in Carmel has a particularly strong program with classes that range from adaptive sports sessions to private music therapy, though other community centers also offer classes. It’s a meaningful time for the kids and a small break for their caregivers.

Parent support groups like those at Noble of Indiana often include childcare. So parents can connect with others in similar circumstances while the children are being cared for in another room in the building.

Then, of course, there are natural supports like enlisting grandma or trading babysitting nights with family friends. Depending on the circumstance this is not always an option, which makes the previously mentioned services a godsend for some families.

Now go get it

Finding respite providers is possible, though accepting the services is another issue. Will the caregiver give the right support? What about a parent’s own guilt about leaving the child?

Think baby steps. A respite provider can provide a break even if the parent is still in the house. Mom or dad can be on site, but can take a moment to nap or clean or use the phone in peace. If the caregiver has questions, the parent is right there to answer them. Over time it may become easier to make a quick run to the grocery store or even go to the movies.

“We all come up with reasons why we can’t or we won’t, but it’s really important that we do. There are ways to access getting a break while assuring your child’s health and safety,” said Aaron.