Michelle Rupp: Hello and welcome into this week’s edition of AFMC TV. We’re glad you’re joining us. Governor Asa Hutchinson proclaimed November as Arkansas Lifespan Respite month. Joining us today to talk about this is Sarah Schmidt from Department of Human Services. Hi, Sarah. Hi, thanks for joining us.

Sarah Schmidt: Thank you for having me.

MR: All right, what is Arkansas lifespan respite?

SS: So, we like to say that it is the best kept secret in Arkansas. Which is a shame because it shouldn’t be a secret which is why we’re trying to really get the word out about what it is. So, lifespan respite has actually been around nationally for quite a while. It was born here in Arkansas about 2013, when DH and some agencies and providers who support caregivers came together just to kind of look at, is there a way, is there an infrastructure we can build that better helps caregivers? So what we did is we built a coalition around that and through that coalition we started looking at funding opportunities uh DH s started applying for federal grants um to help with that um which we started receiving some federal funding for in the last let’s say in 2020, you know, pandemic kind of kind of throws you off there. In 2020 we received our latest grant, it’s a five-year grant that is about $1.3 million dollars overall. And it’s really designed to help create that infrastructure for caregivers. So, we do that through providing respite vouchers to give them some financial support to pay for respite out of pocket. We’ve developed trainings for individuals who maybe want to be a respite care worker. And then also just the accessibility of where to find the respite workers. So, we have built a search locator for caregivers to easily go and find those individuals.

MR: And at the crux of all of this and at a very, very primal, very basic level. It’s help for caregivers.

SS: That is exactly what it is.

MR: You are that beacon of hope, that white flag, we’re here to help you.

SS: It’s amazing. The data shows that um over 15% of Akansans actually identify as caregivers. Um but only 90%. Uh actually 90% do not receive uh respite care, so um it’s a very needed resource in this house.

MR: So maybe give me an example of how or when these services might be utilized by a caregiver.

SS: So, actually let’s backtrack a little because a lot of people don’t even know what risks it is. Um you often it’s not a a household vocabulary just yet. Um And you may sometimes hear it mispronounced as respite and different things like that. Um So just understanding what respite is, it’s a short term break for caregivers. Um We liken it a lot to uh for example, if you get on a plane that preflight check um when they say uh if the cabin pressure changes, the oxygen mask will drop, please put yours on before helping others. It’s the same thing. It’s that oxygen mask. ME: That’s a great analogy.

SS: Yes, those caregivers um if you’ve ever been a caregiver, you know uh just the stress the anxiety that that can bring on when you yourself are being so selfless providing for someone else. Um A lot of time. What happens is you forget about yourself. Um So, respite is really created for that caregiver to take that short term break, to get away, Recharge their batteries so that they can come back and better help their loved one um a lot of times we see that individuals are using respite for um taking vacations. um and it can be anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. Um It just depends on your need. Um We also see them taking it uh maybe there’s uh an event, a family event, anything like that, that it would be too stressful to bring your loved one with you um that allows you to go to that uh doctor’s appointments, We see people using it just to go to their own doctor’s appointments um to go grocery shopping. um in the peace and quiet and get it done and be able to come back home so you can really use respite for a lot of different things.

MR: It’s kind of having that me time, right? And as you said to kind of recharge, however, however you recharge, so how does um a caregiver learn about this program? Do they sign up? Um how how can they find out that there is this beacon of hope out there for them?

SS: So it is available to everyone. That’s the unique thing about lifespan respite as opposed to other respites. Many of our DHS programs have respite in their services, their Medicaid plans, things like that. um but it requires certain um eligibility criteria with lifespan respite. It’s available to all um we say, any age, any diagnosis. Um it’s really meant to kind of bridge that gap um for individuals who maybe don’t qualify, for Medicaid, uh they make too much money in the household. Uh Maybe they’re on a waitlist um for their services, uh but they’re drowning something right? Um Or uh maybe you do have respite services in your program, but you’ve exhausted them all and there’s an emergency um Different things like that. Um There’s also several diagnosis and serious health conditions that they’re just not programs available, um so lifespan respite is there for everyone. Um It’s very simple. Uh you can just go to our website um It’s a r dot gov slash respite. That’s easy. Um And we have our three categories that you can choose from. The financial assistance for vouchers. Um If you want training on being a respite worker, um or if you’re looking for respite workers, our search locator that you can search by your county uh by an age range and different filters uh to kind of narrow down to exactly what you’re looking for.

MR: You know, you raise a good point, of course we’re thinking on behalf of the caregivers, but you’ve got to have those individuals who are able to step in And so what kind of training do those individuals who are able to step in and fill that gap for the hour to go grocery shopping or what have you? What kind of training? What kind of criteria must they meet if if you’re thinking well I’m not really a caregiver but I certainly could help in another capacity.

SS: It’s interesting uh last year um this was actually brought to us, we had been thinking about training um as kind of one of our components. And nationally they were trying to build a training program, pilot program um So we were invited um and we’re happy to be a part of a multistate training uh building uh with several states and then some national partners um And through that training, what we did is we built a core foundation that will hopefully be a core nationally for respite care workers. Um So there’s some national things in there, but also then we we um customized it to Arkansas. Um you know, certain there are certain laws and statutes um that we have to follow, so we’ve built that. Um and it is online, it is totally free. It’s a self-paced course. Um All you do is you log into it um You watch introductory video, video uh do a pre survey um and it will unlock all the 10 modules um where we go over medication awareness, um several different things. Um And then at the end of it you will take a post survey um where you have to score an 80 or above. Um And if you meet that criteria, then a certificate is offered to you. Uh that is the core base. Um We are trying to build on that Now to then create badges um in particular uh different types of things that go a little deeper. Um So for example if you’re interested in maybe caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, a badge on Alzheimer’s and dementia which gets you a little more into it. Other than just the Foundation um caring for someone with a feeding tube, uh how to do transfers, things like that. So that is really a new area for us that we’re trying to build. Um And we are looking at all of our partners to bring us ideas on that. Uh But it’s a really exciting time for us to start building that training. That’s awesome. Well you guys have something else that’s exciting. We do you’ve got a conference coming up and so share with us about that conference. Sure. So our conference is actually next week um So next Monday and Tuesday the 14th and the 15th of November. Um It’s an annual conference that we do last year. We did it totally virtual um Because we were still getting over the pandemic. Um And it was a three day virtual this year we’re coming back to in person. Um But we learned a valuable lesson last year in that allowing it to be virtual allows more people um from all over from all over. Um What we learned is caregivers can’t get away to come to a conference. Um Which we’re holding in Conway at U. C. A. Um So we are actually going to do a hybrid this year. Uh We’re allowing the in person uh we’re coming back to that but if a caregiver or anyone out there is just unable to make it to Conway um they can register for the virtual piece where they will see the same things everybody at the conference are seeing, they’ll still be able to participate in everything else. Um I mentioned it was the two day conference um it is full of uh caregiver support um sessions, um self-care sessions um a little bit more in depth onto our respite program, uh building the workforce um for respite workers and then also just some panel discussions on um you know, there may come a time where you have to look at long term care options How do you do that? Um caregiver stories, we’re bringing real caregivers up um to tell their stories lessons they’ve learned, um things like that and one of the most exciting pieces for the conference um at the very end on the second day we are recognizing caregivers this year. Uh This is our first year, this is our inaugural year um to do this recognition, we will be handing out awards people. The public were able to nominate caregivers and providers and advocates. Um So we will be doing back this year as well.

MR: If people want to register be it in person or virtual. what is the registration fee and then where do they go.

SS: Totally free. Ok, it is a free conference. Um all you have to do um our registration is set up through Eventbrite. So uh if you’ll go to Eventbrite and all you have to do is in the search, just put Arkansas Caregivers Arkansas respite, it’ll be the first thing that pops up. Um, so you’ll just go in there and select a registration. We do have a virtual option um, that you can also select to let us know if you’re going to be in person or virtual and it is still open. It is still open all the way through the weekend. Particularly for those who want virtual. And then we will close it down probably Sunday night, uh, before the event starts on Monday.

MR: Sarah. Is there anything else you would like to add?

SS: Just go to our website? Look around a lot of information. I welcome anyone who wants to come and be a part of our coalition. Um, We have organizations that provide care. Uh, we have advocacy groups, um, and then we also have just caregivers on the coalition. We can think up all we want these new things, but it’s the caregivers who can tell us is that really going to work or not? Um, this is what we really need here in the state. So we welcome anyone to be a part of that. You can find more information about the coalition on our website. Um there’s a membership form there.

MR: Fantastic. Sarah, thank you so much.

SS: Thank you.

MR: And best of luck at the conference.

SS: Thank you.

MR: It will be an exciting time.

SS: Yes, it will.

MR: And thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.