Before the COVID-19 shutdown, Dario Mosconi loved going to the movies and shopping at Meadowood Mall. Since March 2020 however, he’s had to shift to playing board games, watching movies at home and going on walks. The good news is that he gets to do these things with Ashley Pereda, a Community Care Partner with Neighbor Network of Northern Nevada (N4).
N4 offers free respite care for care partners (which could be a family member, neighbor or close friend) of older adults and people with disabilities, allowing them the time they need to do what they want to do, which sometimes might be nothing at all.
Dario was born with spina bifida, a condition that affects the spine and has contributed to a number of physical issues along with a minor intellectual disability. Since January, Pereda has been spending time with him four days a week, taking him to his doctors’ appointments, helping him prepare meals, going on walks with him and ensuring he gets plenty of social time.
Though the 48-year-old Dario has lived on his own since he was 20, his parents, Kelli and Bud Mosconi have devoted much of their lives to ensuring he’s properly taken care of. Pereda has taken on some of that responsibility, giving his parents the time they need to do what they need to do.
“Our son is independent, but he doesn’t have a lot of friends,” Kelli says. “We’ve been his buddies for most of his life, but that has become more difficult as we’ve gotten older.”
While Kelli and Bud still spend a lot of time with him, Pereda has stepped in to watch movies, go grocery shopping for him and discuss the issues of the day. Pereda says she appreciates his perspective, as he helps her see things in a different way.
“We hang out and talk about things that are going on in the world,” she says. “It’s really cool because he’s super opinionated and expressive about things. It’s fun to have these conversations with him.”
Kelli says that Pereda’s involvement allows them to spend more of their own social time with Dario.
“We couldn’t go out for Father’s Day this year, but we were able to take lunch over to his apartment and watch a movie,” she says. “We were able to just sit and enjoy each other’s company, which was really nice. Ashley’s involvement allows us to be parents not just caregivers.”
The importance of taking a break
“Our philosophy is that by giving primary care partners regular breaks, it helps to strengthen and preserve their familial or friend relationships,” explains N4 Founder and Executive Director Amy Dewitt-Smith. “Some people enjoy quiet time at home during their break, while others choose to go out. It really is up to them.”
Family Caregiver Alliance share that care partners may feel guilty for considering having someone else help them, but they risk suffering from burn-out if they don’t. They offer these recommendations to care partners on how to best use respite.
- Don’t wait until you are exhausted and overwhelmed. Respite is most effective if it’s used early and regularly. Even short breaks make a difference.
- Plan carefully for what you want to do with your break. Don’t over-schedule yourself, but do find something that is meaningful and nurturing for you.
- Realize that the respite experience may not go perfectly, especially at first. This may be new for both you and the person receiving care, and may take some trial and error.
- You may be open to respite, but worried that the person for whom you provide care will be reluctant to try it out.
“We know that giving the primary care partner a break decreases the risk of the older adult or person with disabilities having to move into a residential facility,” Dewitt-Smith explains. “Respite care keeps families together longer.”
N4 respite services can be provided in the home, or by taking the person into the community. Activities could include taking them for a walk, virtual socialization, or community outings that follow COVID-19 protocols, including wearing a mask and physical distancing.
People interested in respite care services can learn more at www.neighbornv.org/respite-care/ or by calling 775.453.4774.
N4 is also hiring Community Care Partners, with wages starting at $13/hour. People who are over the age of 18, patient, open-minded, flexible, good at problem-solving and looking for a job with flexible hours, should visit the N4 Careers page to learn more.
Roommates and friends who are already helping an older adult or someone with a disability are eligible to become Community Care Partners. “They’ll just have to go through a background check and meet the other criteria we have in place,” Dewitt-Smith says.
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