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Respite home offers a break to caregivers

Hillcrest home is a pilot project
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The house in the Hillcrest neighbourhood that is bring used as a respite home as part of a pilot project by the Yukon government and the Yukon Association for Community Living. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

A respite home is open in Whitehorse’s Hillcrest neighbourhood.

The pilot project, funded until March 2019, is a partnership between the Yukon government and the Yukon Association for Community Living.

The YACL is responsible for managing and staffing the two-bedroom home, which provides short-term care for people living with developmental and physical disabilities.

This offers individuals a change of scenery, and gives full-time caregivers a break from the physical and emotional work of caregiving.

Right now, said Shonagh McCrindle, executive director of the YACL, the home is open, though no one is staying there yet.

“We are trying to figure out where the exact need is and we can’t know until we start interacting with families,” she said.

She said a loose estimate for the number of people caring for family members with high needs is around 250, though she noted that doesn’t account for undiagnosed individuals.

McCrindle said the home is exclusively for adults (a similar kids home is being considered, though she said there are more constraints, legally, around establishing a respite home for children), but there are otherwise no restrictions around who can stay.

McCrindle said YACL is thinking mostly in terms of adults with developmental disabilities, including FASD, intellectual disabilities, and autism. However, she said the organization is open to conducting intake meetings with anyone in order to determine individual needs and potential adaptations that YACL can make to accommodate those needs.

For now, there is one care worker for one client, but the hope is to expand services, so one care worker can be responsible for two clients.

Limits of stay are also undefined, but she said she expects most people to stay overnight, or up to a couple days.

“I think some common sense (should be exercised),” she said, noting that someone can’t book in for six months, for example, because it would block the service for others.

McCrindle said that while the project is only presently scheduled to run until March, the Yukon government has said that if it proves “useful,” the project will continue to be funded beyond March 2019. No one from the government was available to speak to the project.

There are two major markers in determining the success of the project, McCrindle said.

“Are people using it?” she said. “Are they happy with the service?”

If the answer is yes, the house (which is a rental) will continue to offer respite care.

McCrindle said the service is available to all Yukoners, including those in the communities. She said there are currently no plans underway to open a similar respite home in any of the communities.

Anyone interested in receiving respite care can contact YACL by phoning 867-667-4606.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com