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Overnight Respite

By: Lisa Sheinhouse, MA Director, OHEL Bais Ezra

Published in Jewish Press Building Blocks, March 2015

Parents with children with developmental disabilities are often consumed with their care, and do not have time to themselves. Very often they cannot take a vacation or visit relatives out of town because they cannot travel with their child with a disability. When a new baby is born, it is often very difficult for a mother to enjoy her new baby and recuperate while still caring for her child with a developmental disability. At times, a parent might be suffering from an illness and may need to know their son or daughter is cared for, so that they themselves can take care of their own health concerns. The purpose of respite services is to provide temporary relief from the demands of care giving, which helps reduce overall family stress. This often enables families to better meet the needs of their loved one with a developmental disability. Respite is the service most often requested by family caregivers. Respite programs offer planned short-term and time-limited opportunities for parents to take a break.

One of the most sought after yet hard to obtain types of respite is Overnight Respite – respite that is provided on an over - night basis. Most parents are not aware that overnight respite is available – or how to access it. OHEL’s overnight respite program is a unique respite program that allows parents to leave their home or place their child in a respite provider’s home for up to seven nights and know their child is safe, secure and well cared for. Parents can go on vacation, attend a simcha or even recuperate from child birth and know that a loving adult is caring for their child overnight during this period.

How does it work ? Parents can either choose a caregiver on their own, including a member of one’s extended family, or ask the agency to provide a caregiver from a list of qualified professionals. The agency will provide personnel who have been trained in how to appropriately care for a child with special needs. In addition, all caregivers have been fingerprinted and have cleared through government background checks to ensure that they can properly provide supervision for the child. The child can either be cared for in the family home or in the provider’s home, so that parents have the opportunity to remain in their own homes. Staff from the agency will visit the home before it is certified and ensure that it is a safe and loving environment. The application process provides the agency and caregiver the opportunity to get to know the child before the week begins. There is an in depth interview process with the family. Information such as routines surrounding bath time, mealtimes and bedtime, medications and behaviors is gathered from the parents to ensure the most successful week. While the parents are on vacation, or busy taking care of something else in their personal lives, the provider agency will visit and check in with the caregiver to ensure that the child is well cared for and adjusting well.

How does one qualify for over - night respite? The program is funded through the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) with Medicaid Waiver Funds. All participants must have a documented developmental disability such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down syndrome or autism. Anyone who is diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability and lives at home with his or her family is welcome to apply. A current, comprehensive psychological evaluation is required as well as eligibility to participate in OPWDD programming. Age requirements and level of supports needed vary by program. The Service Coordinator will ensure that the program is listed on the individual’s ISP.  

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