Helping hands

Trained respite providers give the gift of time, reduce caregiver stressors

For those who wish to lend a helping hand and give the gift of their time to a caregiver, Respite Educational and Support Tools, or REST, training can provide people of any background with the tools they need to support a caregiver by providing respite care, which gives the caregiver time to rest, refresh and recharge. A recent study showed REST training is an effective training system for respite providers. Furthermore, receiving respite from a REST-trained provider reduces caregiver stress. (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

MARQUETTE — An estimated 34.2 million people provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older, and over 65 percent of caregivers who live with those receiving their care do not get unpaid help with caregiving, according to a 2015 report from AARP.

While serving as a primary caregiver for a loved one can be joyful and rewarding, there is a great deal of evidence that primary caregivers are at risk for mental and physical health issues, feelings of isolation and high levels of stress.

However, researchers and professionals involved with the Respite Educational and Support Tools, or REST, training program are working hard to address the issue by offering evidence-based training for respite care workers in areas across the nation, including the Upper Peninsula.

The aim is to increase the number of trained respite workers available to support caregivers by giving them a chance to refresh and recharge, which is beneficial to the caregiver and care receiver.

“We’re really excited to be able to provide this program throughout the Upper Peninsula,” said Tammy Rosa, caregiver programs manager at the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress, or UPCAP. “We’ve had great success, it’s been well received and has shown positive caregiver outcomes to those individuals that have utilized respite workers that have been trained.”

Since UPCAP began offering REST training in February 2017, over 100 people have been trained at 17 training sessions in Marquette, Delta, Dickinson, Houghton, Baraga and Ontonagon counties.

The REST program is for both paid and unpaid respite workers, with or without previous respite experience. The program is customizable to fit a wide variety of caregiving needs and teaches trainees how to communicate and effectively address the needs of the person receiving care, as well as the caregiver.

“It makes people more confident and willing to help others,” said Lois Sheaffer, national director of REST and co-author of the REST study. “We can’t pay for all the respite that’s needed, so we definitely need volunteers to step up, give their time and support each other … Our goal is really to have companions on every corner in America, who can help these caregivers who are desperate.”

It can be difficult for caregivers to seek outside help from a respite worker for a number reasons, but self-care is a critical part of being an effective caregiver, and having a trusted person to provide respite care can improve the well-being of the caregiver.

“Taking care of themselves is one of the most important parts of their caregiving responsibilities, and looking for a person that has the skills and knowledge to provide a quality, safe respite experience is going to … allow them to be able to get that break with the confidence that their person is well cared for,” Rosa said.

The fact that trained respite providers can improve caregiver well-being was supported in a recently published study, entitled “Effects of respite care training on respite provider knowledge and confidence, and outcomes for family caregivers receiving respite services,” in the Home Health Care Services Quarterly.

The study assessed how receiving REST training affected the skills and confidence of respite caregivers, as well as the effects of having respite care on caregiver well-being.

The results were heartening: Those who received the training reported significant growth in their confidence delivering respite care, as well as in their perceived knowledge of respite care. Caregivers who worked with a trained respite provider had reduced stress-related symptoms after receiving respite from a trained provider, versus before respite began or if respite were to end.

Now, with the evidence behind the REST program, organizers hope to take it even further and get the health care system involved.

“It’s well known in the aging world … that caregiving is a health care crisis right now … My goal with that study is to now go the next step further and start to give caregivers a prescription for respite when they leave the hospital, because most of the times that’s where caregivers are identified,” Sheaffer said, adding that they are seeking additional funders and partners who want to explore this through a pilot program.

In the Upper Peninsula, REST training for companions is offered free of charge through UPCAP, which also offers programs designed to educate and support caregivers.

A REST training will be offered in Houghton 1-5 p.m. over two days, May 3-4, at the Copper Country Mental Health Institute. For more details and registration, visit:

A training will also be offered in L’Anse from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 10 at 832 Sicotte St. To register, visit:

For those who would like to become REST trainers and be able to offer REST training for companions, a Train-The-Trainer event will be held in Escanaba on June 5 and 6. For more information and registration, visit:

In addition to offering REST training, UPCAP also offers training and resources for caregiver wellness. For more information, call UPCAP at 211 or 906-786-4701. For a list of programs, visit

For more information on REST specifically, visit

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.