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Partners in Care

Need respite care or want to offer respite care? JFS offers national program, Partners in Care

“The closest thing to being cared for is to care for someone else.”  —Author Carson McCullers

With many family members caring for their ill or elderly relatives, Jewish Family Service of Rhode Island has adopted a program, Partners in Care. “The goal of the program is to help relieve the burdens of caregiver stress and to increase the potential for sustaining the loved one at home,” said Julie Herzlinger, director of community services, JFS. “There’s a huge unmet need for respite care in this state,” Herzlinger stated.

Partners in Care, which is funded by Legacy Corps, part of the U.S. Corporation for National Service (AmeriCorps), trains volunteers to accompany ill or frail individuals while the family caregiver gets some respite from care-taking duties by, for example, getting a massage, taking an exercise class, meeting a friend for lunch, attending his or her own medical appointment or engaging in any other activity that directly benefits the caregiver. The program supports caregivers who are caring for seriously ill or aged relatives; either the caregiver or the care recipient must have some connection to the military community. We are, said Julie, “broadly defining” the connection that a care-giving family must have to the military. Even a long-ago deceased relative or in-law who was a service member, qualifies families throughout Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts. And, there are absolutely no fees or costs incurred by the family.

Research shows that military family caregivers experience even greater levels of stress associated with caregiving than do other families and family caregivers often ignore or defer their own social, physical, medical, financial and/or emotional needs, because of caregiving’s stresses and demands.

So, what’s involved in volunteering? Jessica Murphy, Partners in Care program coordinator, JFS, explained that volunteers will provide between four and 10 hours of respite care each week, which includes recreational activities, companionship, errands and transportation. Volunteers do not provide any personal care or medical services or do any heavy lifting. They must attend 20 hours of pre-service training, 70 additional hours of training at JFS, pass background checks and have a valid driver’s license and transportation. Partners in Care especially, but not exclusively, seeks volunteers who are veterans or have relatives who are veterans. JFS will match volunteers to the families with common interests, etc., so that they can build solid relationships, said Julie. The agency seeks individuals who are interested in volunteering and family caregivers who seek that respite support, she said.

In the course of a year, each volunteer is expected to complete 450 hours of service, which will consist primarily of providing that respite care, but could also include outreach for the program or helping support the program at the JFS offices, said Jessica.

All individuals recruited and accepted into the program automatically become AmeriCorps volunteers, and JFS seeks to recruit approximately two dozen more volunteers. Most volunteers for this national program, which operates in 16 sites across 11 states, have been of retirement age, said Julie.

Each volunteer receives a monthly stipend of $150 and, upon completing the 450 hours of service, receives an additional stipend of $1,527 that can be used for any education-related expenses. That education stipend, said Jessica, is a great benefit, as it can be given to a volunteer’s child or grandchild for their education-related expenses.

Want more information about volunteering or seeking a volunteer? Call Jessica Murphy at (401) 331-1244, ext. 336 or Jessica@jfsri.org.


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