October marks the one-year anniversary of the Among Friends Social Respite Program in River Falls. We thought this would be a good time to reflect on the journey that allows us to celebrate this milestone by sharing a bit of the story of how the Among Friends program came to be.
Three years ago a conversation started around the local need for a respite care program to support caregivers of individuals with memory loss. As far as we knew, no such program existed in the River Falls area. As a result of this conversation, a group of passionate individuals came together and began to learn more about the scope of the local need for individuals with memory loss and to better understand existing services and resources. When Pierce County social workers confirmed that there were no respite care programs for families in our area, it prompted a question and a challenge.
What would it take to develop and implement a respite care program in Pierce County?
A committee was formed. Its purpose to respond to a need and its vision to create a respite care program in Pierce County.
We visited with other respite programs, met with dementia care specialists, and began to create a road map with the hope that we could turn our vision into reality. But we had so many questions!
- Who would participate in our program?
- What would the program day look like?
- When would we be able to offer services?
- Where would the program be located?
- How would we fund the program?
We worked through these and many other questions, and in October 2017 we began with our first Among Friends participants.
The program is an adult social-model day respite program.
- Sessions are currently offered one day per week (Tuesdays) from 9:00am-3:00pm and located at the First Congregational Church. 110 North 3rd St. River Falls, WI. We hope to add more days as the program continues to grow.
- The cost of the program is $35 per session and includes snacks and a hot lunch meal. Financial assistance may be available.
- There are currently 9 participants enrolled. Activities are customized to participants’ desires and abilities. A Program Coordinator is on site and oversees volunteers and activities during the program day. The Program Coordinator conducts an initial intake interview during a home visit with the potential participant and caregiver and communicates regularly with caregivers whose loved ones are enrolled in the program.
We are extremely fortunate to have an amazing group of committed volunteers who share their time and talents with our participants.
- We have a certified yoga instructor who leads us in chair yoga each week.
- We have a group of volunteers who play Euchre.
- There is live music every week, and we had a wonderful patriotic sing-a-long 4th of July week with 45 people in attendance!
- We have made greeting cards for a local non-profit and made squares for a quilt.
- We’ve released monarch butterflies into the church garden and had gentle and friendly canine visitors.
- We have storytellers and movies, and we especially enjoyed participating in activities with the children during Vacation Bible School.
- We just completed training with a group of student volunteers from the UWRF Communicative Disorders program, and we are looking forward to the energy and creativity they will bring as they engage with our participants.
We are so grateful to everyone who has been a part of and continues to be a part of this incredible journey. We welcome anyone who has interest in participating to contact Program Coordinator, Norma Revels, for more information. 715-293-2561.
A recent comment to an Among Friends Facebook post supports the value that the program provides. The comment is from a caregiver who has had her loved one in the Among Friends program for the past full year. She said, “Among Friends has changed our lives. Thank you”