Nancy Ryan was a full-time caregiver for her husband, a full-time job without any fanfare. Without much help, she carried on each day making sure her husband had the love and care needed to make it through each day. Through the RSVP Boone County Adult Caregiver Respite Program, Ryan was able to take a break and do the little things one may take for granted -- run a quick errand or grab a bite to eat.
Looking after a loved one can be deeply emotionally and physically stressful. Respite programs run by RSVP across the country allow caregivers a much-needed short reprieve from their full-time caregiving responsibilities, allowing them to maintain the independence they deserve for themselves and those they take care of.
Two RSVP volunteers went to Ryan's home twice a week, giving her husband more friends to spend time and also reliving Ryan temporarily of her duties.
One of those volunteers was Evelyn Ostrander who started volunteering with RSVP more than 13 years ago and keeps active by volunteering in numerous projects including the RSVP Respite Program.
Ostrander has been friends with Ryan for years and knew the difficult circumstances she was facing. She was happy to help Ryan escape for a few hours to enjoy some downtime.
“We had a great time, playing cards and just talking,” said Ostrander. “Respite care can be quite expensive, so I am happy to give chip in and give my friends and neighbors a relief. It was so rewarding to always see a smile on his face when we came around.”
“The RSVP Respite Program gave me time away to relax and build up enough energy to go on”, said Ryan. “My husband enjoyed the visit and looked forward to the day when the volunteers were scheduled to come.”
After Ryan's husband passed away, she decided it was time to give back to the program that gave her so much. Ryan is now an active RSVP volunteer, where she now serves as a RSVP Respite Volunteer and a volunteer at the Great LOVE Food Pantry.
“I had other people help my family in times of need. I am giving back by helping others. It gives me a fellowship with other volunteers and gives me a purpose and something to look forward to.”
Established in 1971 and now one of the largest senior volunteer organizations in the nation, RSVP engages more than 400,000 people age 55 and older in a diverse range of volunteer activities. Volunteers tutor children, renovate homes, teach English to immigrants, assist victims of natural disasters, provide independent living services, recruit and manage other volunteers, and serve their communities in many other ways.
Michelle Hull is the RSVP Director of Boone and Greene Counties, Iowa.