Clare Farless has a passion for her work as family caregiver manager at the Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD) located in Cookeville, Tenn. As part of her responsibilities, she coordinates respite services for caregivers through the UCDD’s Area Agency on Aging and Disability.
She can relate to caregivers who tirelessly provide care to family members and other loved ones. At the age of 21, Clare, herself, became a caregiver to her mother who had been diagnosed with cancer. Her role as caregiver continued until her mother’s death four years later.
“I saw the need for respite back then,” Clare said. “I can relate to the caregivers with whom I work today. I see them stressed. They need quality time away. That is why I work so hard for them.”
Clare attended a REST (Respite Education & Support Tools) train-the-training program in April 2013. Since then, she has conducted volunteer respite training sessions that have resulted in 10 new caregivers and their families being served to date. That translates into 593 hours of
respite, worth nearly $9,000 in services, Clare said.
Among those who undergo respite training, interns from Tennessee Technical University have especially benefitted, Clare said.
“It provides an opportunity for students to better understand what caregivers go through,” she said. “You can read about dementia all day long. But once you meet a person with dementia, you get a different perspective. Once working with dementia patients, one of our volunteers realized he did not want to go into gerontology as he originally thought – but that was still beneficial for him to learn that early on.”
Clare appreciates REST for a number of reasons. “We can customize the curriculum – REST materials flow easily into ours.”
“There is no need to recreate the wheel,” she added. “The forms included with the program are wonderful.”
“The support from REST staff is great. If I have a question, I know I could get an answer today. They are willing to help. I can’t say enough good things about the REST staff.”
“REST is our saving grace,” Clare admitted. “It has allowed us to foster the seed of hope for caregivers.”