The R & R Support Day Program provides care to those who care for others. Now in its third year, a loyal group of attendees say this program really works. Operated by Hospice North Hastings, the free program invites those who care for others to receive their own care one morning each week. The program offers therapeutic touch, reiki, yoga, companionship, lunch and lots of much needed laughter. This past year the R & R Support Day Program was operated with funds raised through the Fall Hike for Hospice and for each one of the care providers attending the program, it’s a gift that keeps giving.
Ruth Turner tended to her sick husband for ten years. Much of that time she was the only care provider. It was tough and it took its toll.
“It was hard to care for him and you don’t really get to sleep because you sleep with one eye open,” Ruth recalls. “I was burnt out and when I heard about the program I jumped in with both feet. I decided I had to do it for myself.”
Ruth says it was a great decision and she immediately found comfort in the small group that meets every Thursday morning in Bancroft.
“I was so lonely and cut off from friends,” Ruth says. “But you walk in here and there are smiles and sighs of relief and you really can leave your worries outside. It got me out of the house and it helped me understand that I was not the only one going through this.”
Through the Program Ruth has made important friendships and she has connected with the program staff and volunteers. Her husband lost his battle and now, more than ever before, she understand the value of the R & R Support Day Program as she starts the process of cleaning out her house.
“After so long with your mate, there are so many memories,” Ruth takes a deep breath, finds a smile and continues. “Coming to the R & R is what gets me through.”
On this summer morning, Ruth has enjoyed therapeutic touch provided by Cathie Best. Cathie has a nursing background and she sees the benefit of the program week after week.
“This is not pie in the sky,” Cathie explains. “The benefit we see to these caregivers happens right away; in a few minutes you see the shift. Their bodies are chronically stressed, there is wear and tear and these people have been coping on their own for a long time.”
While reiki and conversations are going on, PSW and R & R coordinator Lenna Minnie bustles in and out, prepping lunch, chatting with clients and making sure everyone is having a good morning. Lenna is attentive to the needs of each of these care providers and those at the program say she is a strong support. Her smile alone can bring much needed comfort during a difficult time.
Each Thursday there is also gentle yoga class led by Troy Springer. Her soft voice fills the lobby of the Village Playhouse where the program runs. Her class participants can use chairs or not and they pause between postures and poses to discuss what they’re feeling in their bodies and to receive praise and tender support from Troy.
Mike Vatcher has been coming to the program for two years and he’s really been enjoying the yoga.
“I thought yoga was ‘Mickey Mouse,’ but it’s not,” Mike says. “My wife is in a wheelchair and I realise that I need to keep fit to help care for my wife and to keep myself strong. I do this for my wife and for me and I take this home.”
Mike says before he started coming to the program that he was deteriorating. He had just moved to the area when his wife had a stroke and he was feeling isolated. Now he sees the weekly outing as something to look forward to.
“We all talk,” Mike laughs. “We all are different but we have similarities.”
Mike says he finds such a deep level of understanding at the weekly Program and that he can talk about anything from emotions to current events. The program’s loose structure allows the participants to take the morning in whatever direction they want. No pressure, no rush; just some much needed time to receive care.
Rita Marie Browning has been working at the R & R Support Day Program since the very beginning and like Mike, she also enjoys the flexible format. She says she can provide what’s needed when the participants need it.
“We’re giving them what they need and they get to release their feelings and emotions,” she says. “I love watching their progress as they find new support through every stage.”
Each week the Program ends with a luncheon where staff, volunteers and participants gather for soup, sandwiches, salad, tea and coffee. It’s just a group of friends enjoying time, conversation and a hearty meal. No one has to carry the conversation – it flows easily and everyone looks relaxed and ready to face another week of caring for a loved one or coping with loss. It’s a weekly recharge for this group of friends who are moving through difficult times.
The R & R Support Day Program operates on Thursday mornings at the Village Playhouse in Bancroft. Run by Hospice North Hastings, this unique program is available free of charge to those who help care for a loved one that is being supported by the CCAC (Access Centre). The program was established to help support those who provide the bulk of care in our community so that they can continue to do this important work. The program is also open to those who are being cared for so that they have an opportunity to be engaged and to stay connected in a caring, supportive environment.
Hospice North Hastings is 100 per cent community funded and on October 4 the Fall Hike for Hospice and Chili Fest will once again be raising funds to support our residential Hospice, Hospice House for North Hastings, the Medical Equipment Loan Cupboard, the Home Visiting Program and our much needed R & R Support Day Program.
For more information on this program and the services Hospice North Hastings provides, please call 613.332.8014 or visit www.hospicenorthhastings.com