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Family Caregivers Want Help Taking a Break

Parent caregivers testified in support of respite-care legislation in Olympia last week. (SEIU 775)
Parent caregivers testified in support of respite-care legislation in Olympia last week. (SEIU 775)
February 15, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The parents of children with disabilities who need around-the-clock supervision are urging Washington state lawmakers to pass bills that would make it easier for them to take a break.

HB 1322 and SB 5360 outline a bipartisan plan to cut the number of training hours needed by respite-care providers from 35 to 14, and allow training to take place online in order to increase the pool of providers.

Eva Gantala takes care of her adult son Mike with developmental disabilities, who uses a wheelchair. She describes some of the responsibilities parents have as care providers.

"It is a job that you have to do all the time, 24/7, because they can't be left alone," she said. "So, you have to supervise them when you're not feeding them, dressing them, cooking, cleaning, bathing them, taking care of their hygiene or any of their medical needs."

The House bill is scheduled for an executive session in the Committee on Health Care and Wellness on Wednesday. The shortened training hours would apply to respite providers who work fewer than 300 hours a year.

Gantala says parent providers gathered last summer to talk about their common barriers and identified the availability of respite care as the biggest issue. The state grants hours for respite care, but parents often have a hard time finding providers.

Gantala says parents end up spending hours explaining a child's specific needs - so having online training for respite providers would be especially helpful, because it could be customized.

"If you have a child who has diabetes, then you can tell your respite provider, 'Okay, I would like for you to take these two classes on diabetes,'" she added. "'And if your child has autism, then you can tell your respite provider, 'I would like for you to take these three or four classes on autism.'"

Gantala says the legislation hasn't faced any opposition in Olympia. The shortened training hours have been vetted and approved by a number of organizations, including Washington's Department of Social and Health Services, the Developmental Disabilities Council, and SEIU 775, the home care workers' union.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA