New program receives accolades for its respite care

Chad Lundquist/Nevada AppealJeremy Convis, 20, left, listens to Nevada Legacy Corps volunteers talk with his parents, Stephanie and Brian, at his home Wednesday afternoon. Jeremy suffered a traumatic brain injury six years ago from a skateboarding accident and receives respite care from corps volunteers.

Chad Lundquist/Nevada AppealJeremy Convis, 20, left, listens to Nevada Legacy Corps volunteers talk with his parents, Stephanie and Brian, at his home Wednesday afternoon. Jeremy suffered a traumatic brain injury six years ago from a skateboarding accident and receives respite care from corps volunteers.

Little did Ken Stanfield realize the impact a new program would have on a special group of people " and himself.

The project director of Nevada Legacy Corps, Stanfield coordinates teams of volunteers who provide respite care to about 100 families.

"We allow the caregiver to take a break from the client and the rest of the family can work or go to school. The point is, we're able to keep the person at home as a family member."

Begun through a grant written by Janice Ayres, executive director of Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, Nevada Legacy Corps has been assisting families in Carson City, Lyon and part of Storey counties as well as near Lake Tahoe. The program has 24 volunteers and is campaigning throughout the month of March to reach a goal of 55 volunteers. They hope to expand into Washoe County.

Families donate to the corps for the volunteer service as they can.

A new client to Nevada Legacy Corps is the Convis family. Brian and Stephanie Convis' 20-year-old son Jeremy suffered a traumatic brain injury while riding his skateboard six years ago when the family was living in Hawthorne. He has severe short-term memory loss. Stephanie, his stepmother, is his primary caregiver.

"I have worked with Jeremy for the past year-and-a-half, after Brian and I married, and it is very stressful," Stephanie said. "It's a lot of retraining and reminding.

"It's nice to know (volunteers) are coming and I can set up a time when I take a break and be with other moms and just do woman stuff. It's nice to have time away."

"I need my time away from her, too," Jeremy chided. "Everyone needs their own time. I have a life outside of this house, too."

Jeremy's volunteer team is Tim Stevenson and Lance McDonald. Stevenson, 45, has been a volunteer about five years; McDonald, 36, has been a volunteer since the program began 18 months ago.

"The value of this program will never be understood," said Brian Convis. "Because unless they're in need, the public will never see it."

Jeremy received an adjusted diploma from Mineral County High School. His fun and outgoing personality fits well with his volunteer team.

"We're planning on going to the movies," McDonald said.

Stevenson and McDonald would also like to take Jeremy out in a four-wheel drive for some adventure and away-from-home time.

"Their help is a big relief," Brian said of the volunteer team. "I love having my son home, but the long-term care is very taxing on the family."

Stanfield noted they were given three additional years of funding.

"We got more money than we asked for, and that's never happened," Stanfield said. "I think it's because of the impact we made in the area."

Stanfield hopes what the Nevada Legacy Corps learns will make a difference in the future of respite care.

"Understanding respite care is a key component to making a win-win situation," he said. "For me, this (program) has been a miracle."

"We try to fit the family's needs. We're getting support from the Alzheimer's Association of Northern Nevada and California " a $1,000 grant per family. Even if this runs out, we will stay in the home. We will find other sources of funding."

In addition to respite care, the program provides a valuable service of research. It was initially funded by the University of Maryland, Division of Aging Services and Atlantic Philanthropies. Carson City is one of 15 sites in the United States and recently was named the No. 1 location as a public-service agency providing volunteer or research work.

Stanfield said volunteers must show interest and undergo a background check, tuberculosis test and CPR/first-aid training and then receive 30-40 hours of pre-service training.

Stanfield said volunteers range in age from 16-80 and last year covered five languages. To volunteer, Stanfield can be reached at 841-6033.

n Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at rcosta-landers@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1223.

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