Respite Services

Client family reveres respite care

Is it wrong to want to have a break?

That was the question Jean Hammond wrestled with before using Holland Bloorview’s respite services. 

(Respite care is a family support service that gives parents temporary relief from the physical and emotional demands of caring for a child with a disability.)

Jean has been bringing her 11-year-old daughter, Ellie, to Holland Bloorview for different services and programs for almost a decade. 

“Right from the get-go Holland Bloorview has been a life-line for me and an invaluable resource for my family,” she said. 

Reservations about respite

Juggling multiple therapy appointments for Ellie’s disability that affects her movement, speech and intellectual development, Jean’s calendar was filled.

But for years she didn’t think respite care was for her. 

“I always reacted negatively to the word ‘respite’” she admitted. 

“I thought to myself, ‘Why would I need respite from my child? Why would my child need respite from me?’ We’re a family and this is what you do.”

Though having a child with a disability was challenging, Jean had things under control. 

She and her husband managed Ellie’s busy schedule of appointments. Jean’s mother also lived nearby and helped out from time to time.  

“I saw respite as something for other people, not for me,” said Jean. 

Leadership role leads to learning

But then Jean became a member of Holland Bloorview’s Family Leadership Program, joining a team of parents that make sure the wants and needs of families are included in all aspects of the hospital’s care. 

That’s when her attitude changed. 

As a Family Leader she felt she should be familiar with all of the hospital’s family support programs, including respite care.

“That’s when I started to look at respite through a different lens,” she said.

Between her own research and talking with other parents who have used this service, she decided to give it a try.  

She enrolled Ellie in the weekend day respite program that runs throughout the fall, winter and spring. (The hospital also offers overnight, summer camp and March Break respite programs.)

“It was win-win from the first minute!” said Jean. “I thought, ‘This is too good to be true.’”

Sundays are for sibling

Every year, Jean and her family plan for nine special Sundays which allow for some much-needed one-on-one time with her typically developing 14-year old son. 

Together, they’ve been enjoying activities like eating at different ethnic restaurants, or seeing movies that Ellie would never agree to see.

Although he may not always express it, Jeans knows her son appreciates the quality time they’re spending together and she can tell he gets excited about their planned activities. 

“I’m sure he’s thanking me on the inside,” she joked. “Respite helped alleviate the guilt I was feeling that he wasn’t able to have these experiences as often as kids who don’t have a sibling with special needs.”

Ellie's equally excited

And for Ellie the transition couldn’t have been smoother. 

Having taken part in the hospital’s Spiral Garden summer camp, respite care felt like an extension of this popular fun-filled program.     

“It was all so familiar to her – familiar faces and familiar activities in the same environment,” said Jean. “She comes home super happy and she has no sense that it’s giving us a break.”

Jean guesses there are other families who have never considered respite care, or families that are reluctant to use this service. 

She urges all families, especially those with more than one child, to embrace the idea of getting some help.  

“If you have another child, don’t miss the opportunity to have dedicated time because that child is making a lot of sacrifices in their life,” said Jean. “Take the break when you can get it. It’s here and it’s a wonderful program.”

To learn more about Holland Bloorview’s respite services, visit www.hollandbloorview.ca/respite or call (416) 425-6220 ext. 3713.