The Respite Inn in Concord provides short term care for developmentally disadvantaged adults, giving their caregivers a welcome break and the guests some relaxation time. From left: Executive Director Maureen Wright, guests Mike and Natascha and staff member Ellee Coleman. Photo by Rochelle Douglas / rochellezphotography.webs.com
For families with adults that have developmental disabilities, life is busy and often overwhelming. Basic household chores, local errands and other necessities can get neglected as they care for their precious loved ones. This was the case for Diane, a single parent who was caring for her adult daughter with a disability. Diane’s father was nearing the end of his life, but he lived on the east coast. She needed to visit him, but she needed help.
Diane’s plight is an example of why Concord’s Respite Inn was started in 1989. The idea behind the Respite Inn is to allow families to bring their loved ones for a given period to provide rest to the caregiver and to allow an experience of relaxation and fun for the guest.
“We’re here to keep families together,” says the Inn’s Director Maureen Wright. “When the families need a break, they bring their (loved one) to us, and it gives their family member a chance to have fun and experience life away from home in a little more independent situation. The goal is both for the caretaker and for the family member who has a disability, to help them.”
With the help of the Respite Inn, Diane was able to visit her father before he passed away. The Inn cared for her daughter for three weeks during that time. “I choke up every time I talk about it,” says Wright.
Peaceful, fun environment
The facility rests in a peaceful neighborhood setting in Concord. The ranch-style accommodations allow guests to have handicap access if needed and plenty of space to enjoy the property. There are simple decorations furnishing the grounds and one can visualize guests eating a picnic or throwing a Frisbee on the lawn.
Over the years, many improvements have been done to the outside one-acre inn, many of them coming from volunteers such as the Boy Scouts. One such boy completed his Eagle Scout project by designing and installing an impressive bocce ball court in the garden-like backyard. Another Eagle Scout did the same when he put in a raised vegetable garden for the guests and staff to enjoy. All of this adds to a calming environment that gives guests a home-like feel while their caregivers tend to other matters.
The inside of the Inn is warmly decorated like a comfortable bed-and-breakfast. On this day, a guest is sitting on a recliner with an iPad on her lap, enjoying a movie. Another is getting ready for a game of holiday bingo with the staff. Each bedroom in the home is themed to add variety: Southwestern Room, 49ers Room, Garden Room, and Angel Room. The kitchen is well equipped for family dinners. There are large living areas intended for playing board games, watching television, relaxing on the sofa, or engaging in conversation.
Respite for caregivers
The Inn serves about 120 guests per year and is licensed through the State of California. Some of these return several times throughout the year, as their families need the service regularly. Guests may stay anywhere from one to 21 days at a time, depending on the situation. “Mike is here because his sister (caregiver) is moving,” says Wright of one guest. “Once she has everything settled, he will go back with her. Change is hard enough already for him, it’s better if she can do the whole move while he is here.”
Staff members at the facility work daily to provide a caring environment for each guest at the inn. There are three full-time workers and one part-time worker. The rest of the helpers are on-call and available depending on the need. The demands of the inn and the staff multiply during the holiday season since families are busy and a simple break from caretaking care make a huge difference.
Most of the staff members have been there for many years are clearly content in what they do. “Sometimes you feel you were born to do certain things and this is my thing,” says Ellee Coleman, who has been at the Inn for 13 years. “I feel like this is my calling and this is what I do.”
The inn not only provides respite for the caregiver, when guests come to the Inn, they rarely want to leave. “They’re usually nervous to come for the first time, because it’s like going to camp and you don’t know anybody,” says Wright. “But once they come here, they love it! It’s like being at a slumber party. They develop new friends and they get so excited and we have so many activities for them to do.”
Thirty-nine year-old guest Natascha feels exactly that way. “I like the people a lot!” she says excitedly, with a huge smile on her face. It’s obvious that Natascha has a special rapport with the staff at the inn. “That’s Cookie,” she says of Coleman. “Her name is Ellee, but I say Cookie. Cookie, is that right!?”
“That’s right,” replies Coleman.
If you would more information about the Respite Inn, call 925-686-5758 or visit www.therespiteinn.org.