Guest Houses Give Caregivers Some Needed Time Off

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Guest Houses Give Caregivers Some Needed Time Off


Byline: Jane Oppermann

Ah, summer! Time for everyone to kick back, relax, take a vacation to get away from it all. Everyone, that is, but family caregivers.

Faced with caring for disabled or chronically ill family members, caregivers quickly learn to provide round-the-clock care and function with little sleep, often limited finances and feelings of isolation.

Strategizing care for their loved ones is top on their list. Their own needs often don't make it onto any list. For many, even identifying themselves as caregivers and acknowledging the need for support is a stretch. And taking a vacation from that role is far from their minds.

Lack of time is one reason, but the main reason is a lack of reliable caretakers to step in while they're away.

Two suburban guest houses for people over 60 offer just that sort of respite for caregivers and their loved ones.

The Edith Bruckner Guest House in West Chicago and the Suzanne Knuepfer Guest House in Elmhurst, both run by Metropolitan Family Services and the only facilities of their type in the suburbs, provide a homey alternative to short-term nursing home care.

Four to eight guests at a time stay in each house while their caretakers are away for vacations or other reasons. The average fee is $80 per night, with a sliding fee scale for some DuPage County residents.

"We have guests from 60 to 98 years old who really appreciate the non-institutionalized setting our houses offer," said Trish Niewoehner, social worker at the Elmhurst home.

Niewoehner remembers a woman who cried at the thought of staying at the guest house during her daughter's long-awaited vacation. At the end of her stay, the woman cried when she had to leave, Niewoehner said.

Guests have their own bedrooms, but share living, dining and bathrooms with others. They're encouraged to take part in everyday activities, if they are able.

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