OKLAHOMA CAPITOL -- According to a survey conducted by the Family Caregiver Alliance, an estimated 14.4 million working Americans are providing care for someone with a disability or chronic health problem. For these families, time is precious and time to one’s self is nothing more than wishful thinking among the endless lists of tasks. That is why the Oklahoma Respite Resource Network was formed.
Respite is temporary relief for families of children or adults with needs, such as disabilities, chronic disease or severe illness. The Oklahoma Respite Resource Network is a statewide public and private collaborative dedicated to providing lifespan respite care.
"The goal of the Oklahoma Respite Resource Network is to preserve and strengthen families who care for someone with special needs," said Rose Ann Percival, Developmental Disabilities Programs Manager. "We do this by making respite care available and accessible to families caring for loved ones of all ages."
Families who qualify must earn less than $60,000 a year and cannot be receiving assistance through the OKDHS Developmental Disabilities waiver funded services, Family Support Assistance payments or the Aging Division Advantage waiver. Families being served through the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Maternal and Child Health programs or who have adopted a child who was in OKDHS custody who needs health or behavioral support also may qualify.
Respite relief is provided through the use of a voucher system. Families with an annual household income of $45,000 or less are eligible to receive a $400 voucher good for three months. Those families with an annual income that exceeds $45,000 but is less than $60,000 are eligible for a $300 voucher also good for three months. Families are eligible for two to four voucher packets per year, depending on which program issues the voucher and the availability of funds.
The voucher works like a checking account. Vouchers are issued and payment can be made hourly, daily or weekly. Once the voucher is completed, it is then sent to OKDHS, which acts as the fiscal intermediary by processing vouchers and issuing payment. Families using respite funds are subject to random audits to insure that funds are being spent properly.
The family chooses whom they wish to hire to provide respite care. This can be a professional, family member or a friend who knows the families needs. The person hired to provide respite care cannot live in the same home as the family that hires them.
"When a family has the power to choose a friend or family member to provide respite care, it allows them to feel more comfortable and it’s also comforting to the person receiving respite care to see a familiar face," said Kathleen Kovach, Developmental Disabilities Programs Supervisor. "Giving families the power to hire their own respite providers allows them to negotiate a better rate themselves rather than being forced to follow a set of standards. This is both cost beneficial and efficient."
The Oklahoma Respite Resource Network operates on the idea that families are the experts regarding their situation and should be empowered to make decisions regarding the care of their family member. The families using respite must interview, select and hire their respite care provider. They are also responsible for checking references and training the respite care provider.
Respite care allows families to visit friends, enjoy leisure time, take a vacation or run errands and do other chores. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 80-percent of families who care for a child with a disability suffer a divorce. The time provided by using respite care reduces stress on families by allowing spouses to spend more time together or with their other children.
"We heard from a woman caring for two adult children and a parent with disabilities who wrote and told us that without respite care she and her husband couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel," said Percival. "She didn’t even want to think about where they would have been without the help of respite services."
If you would like to receive an information packet about respite care, information about becoming a respite care provider or if your group or agency would like to become part of the Oklahoma Respite Resource Network, call the Oklahoma Area-Wide Services Information System at 1-800-426-2747. Or, click on http://oasis.ouhsc.edu/.