“You Gave Me Rest“

Oct. 23-29, 2003
“You Gave Me Rest“
By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Respite Center at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church Gives Caregivers Much Needed Break

MEXICO –– Many caregivers wonder what will happen if they leave their loved ones at home. Questions arise such as “Who is going to watch mom?” “Will she be okay?” and “What should I do?” Unfortunately, getting out of the house, even just for a short time, is not an option for some people who care for an ailing family member. The Guardian House Adult Respite Center now enables worried caregivers to run to the store or take some much-needed “me time.” The center, a ministry of St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church, is expected to open in January of 2004. It will be located just across the street from the church, in the religious education center.

According to Father Stephen Wirkes, former pastor of St. Mary’s, the Guardian House Adult Respite Center extends the mission of the church. “The essence of a parish is two-fold,” said Father Wirkes. “First is for the people of the parish to experience the touch of God. Second is to share what we have experienced with people outside.” The need for respite centers has grown in recent years due to longer life expectancy and technological advances, said Carol Ruby, executive director of the center. In 1978 there were only 300 respite facilities nationwide. By the 1980s there were 2,100 centers; today there are approximately 4,000 centers in the U.S, according to the National Adult Day Services Association.

The Guardian House Adult Respite Center is a social respite center. There will be plenty of fun activities for guests to pass the time, such as arts and crafts, singing songs, exercise, playing games and prayer. Lunch will also be offered through Meals on Wheels. “It is important to make sure guests keep moving around,” said Ruby. “We will try to keep them busy. In the cooler weather we have to plan more indoor activities, but when the weather gets warmer again we will be taking guests outdoors.”

The purpose of respite centers is sometimes misinterpreted. Respite centers are much more than having someone “watch” loved ones for the day. They are a place where loved ones can socialize and exercise in a supervised environment, said Ruby. She wants caregivers to feel comfortable bringing loved ones to the center. “When caregivers leave their loved ones here we want them to feel secure,” Ruby said. “Often, they hate to leave their loved one and are afraid of who to leave them with. As a church, most people know who we are and feel comfortable taking their loves ones here.” “We invite those who aren’t familiar to check us out,” she added. Helping to alleviate concerns of caregivers is not the only mission of the Guardian House Adult Respite Center. There is the opportunity for guests to get into a new environment and develop new friendships. “It is good to get loved ones out of the house and interacting with people their own age,” said Fran Currier, co-chairperson of the human resources committee at St. Mary’s.

The non-denominational Guardian House Adult Respite Center will be open on Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. A $10 donation is requested for each guest. Because the center is the only one like it in the county, the Office for the Aging told Ruby to expect to be inundated with guests, something she is pleased about. “We are excited,” said Ruby. “The more guests we have, the more people we are helping. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the opportunities are unlimited.” The center will initially be limited to ten guests. “We are always looking for volunteers for the program so we can allow more guests to participate,” said Currier. Presently there are about 20 volunteers signed up.

More volunteers are needed to help participants with activities. All volunteers receive training. Ruby also guides volunteers with appropriate information and behavior. The Guardian House Adult Respite Center has been in the works since last January when Ruby recognized a need to serve those who are busy, devotedly taking care of their loved ones, day after day, without a break. Father Wirkes was a driving force behind the development of the center, said Currier. “He is just great,” she said. “When you have an idea, he lets you investigate it. We are fortunate he is so supportive.” Farther Wirkes said that he was eager to help get the project off the ground in order to help people in the community who are struggling. “When we perceive a need, it is our duty as Christians to help alleviate the suffering,” said Father Wirkes. “This is done in part through ministries such as food pantries and respite centers where the work of Christ is continued.”

Anyone who is interested in volunteering time to or participating in the Guardian House Adult Respite Center can call St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church at (315) 963-7182.

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