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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Much needed respite: Arc of Spokane’s special home offers overnight stays for special-needs adults

Sima Tarzaban Thorpe, executive director of The Arc of Spokane, on left, and Supportive Living Manager Betty Gall, stand in the living room of the Arc's new respite house for short-term stays by adult children with intellectual or developmental disabilities. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Sima Tarzaban Thorpe, executive director of The Arc of Spokane, on left, and Supportive Living Manager Betty Gall, stand in the living room of the Arc's new respite house for short-term stays by adult children with intellectual or developmental disabilities. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Caregivers of a 23-year-old son with disabilities, Tom and Deborah Stutes needed a vacation from the strain of daily supervision.

The family lives in Springdale. Deborah Stutes said their son Landon functions at a preschool developmental level and often communicates nonverbally. He has seizures and occasional behavior issues.

It’s often hard to find caregivers to fill in. But a few weeks ago, Stutes heard about a new north Spokane respite home offering overnight stays for a special-needs adult, with constant supervision by trained staff.

Their son spent nine days at the facility in early May, while the Stuteses got time to relax.

“It gave us time to celebrate our 28th anniversary,” Stutes said. She is her son’s main caregiver, with help from her husband, who works full time. They hadn’t had a break for nearly two years.

“We were able to do Bloomsday as a couple. Normally, it’s either I or my husband taking care of Landon. It was just so nice to be a couple again and spend some quality time with our other kids.”

Parents often are the primary caregivers for adult children who have intellectual or developmental disabilities, and the need for respite care support comes up frequently, said Sima Thorpe, Arc of Spokane executive director.

Since Feb. 20, the Arc of Spokane has operated the respite home in a rented two-bedroom house. With a bed-and-breakfast feel, it provides lodging for one adult, age 18 or older, for up to 14 days. Arc of Spokane provides employees who are trained and screened to provide on-site care.

Called the Overnight Planned Respite House, it’s run by Arc under contract with the Developmental Disabilities Administration, part of Washington state Department of Social and Health Services.

“In February, the house opened, and as soon as it did, clients began booking it as word got out,” Thorpe said. “Parents are really struggling to find respite providers who can work for the wages that are available for respite care. Lots of parents are the care providers for their children, so they really don’t get a break.”

Arc found the home, furnished it with donated items, and put the site together on a tight budget.

“It’s a cute home in a quiet neighborhood,” she said. “You can tell it’s a labor of love because staff went in there and decorated the whole place.

“Plus, we support the clients who come in with activities. Let’s say you have someone who loves to go bowling, so staff will go bowling with the client. We try to look at it as our client is on vacation at this cool bed and breakfast.”

The facility is the first of its kind in Spokane. Families in the region previously had to travel to Yakima for similar structured care in a home setting.

“It’s a way for people to get a break from 24-7 caregiving for a family member,” said Lynnette Richarson, Arc of Spokane’s supported living administrator. “It’s something that helps families if mom or dad need to have a medical procedure and couldn’t physically be able to take care of them.”

The respite house offers lodging for one person at a time by reservation. As a first step, families make a request through a case manager with the Developmental Disabilities Administration.

Then, families are referred to Arc, which receives a packet regarding the adult child’s needs.

The Arc of Spokane works with families to create a care plan for the client while he or she is staying in the home.

“We’d ask families about any questions and get medical details or routines, what the person likes, any special dietary needs, and the activities they like to do,” Richardson said. “We do that so we can have things be as typical as possible for them.

“We make an agreement with the family, and then we’d staff the home,” she said. “We have one guest at a time, so we can give people our undivided attention.”

At the respite facility, Arc of Spokane employees work in eight-hour shifts, providing supervision and any activities, while covering 24 hours of care.

The service in Washington is new over the past couple of years, Richardson said. Initial state funding opened respite houses on the state’s west side, including in Shoreline and Bellingham. A facility in Yakima offers a duplex as a two-bed guest facility.

Nationally, the Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy and other conditions.

In Spokane, Arc provides multiple programs supporting individuals and families. Options for respite care are needed in the community, Richardson said.

‘It’s something that families who are sole caregivers need so badly,” she said. “It’s very hard work.”

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