EPISODE 13 – Respite for every caregiver – August 15, 2022

What exactly is respite? Why would someone want to use respite? What are reasons caregivers decline respite care? Listen to Bart interview Breion with TN Respite Coalition answer these questions and more on the latest Vista Points podcast episode, Choose Your Path.


Greetings from our Middle Tennessee studio. Welcome to today’s Vista Points podcast, “Choose Your Path”, where the Vista Points staff are committed to improving the quality of life for people living with a disability. 

I’m Bart, your podcast host. My role is to walk with you on this journey of discovering and using special needs trusts. I am glad to return after our summer break to interview business partners who serve people living with disabilities, chronic illness and who have special needs

Today, I am glad to welcome Breion Dixon, Outreach Coordinator with Tennessee Respite Coalition. Throughout this podcast, you will hear us refer to the Tennessee Respite Coalition in different forms. You will hear us say TRC. This means Tennessee Respite Coalition. I don’t want to confuse anyone.  

Good morning, Breion. 

BREION – Hello, Bart. I’m happy to be here today to tell your audience about what the TN Respite Coalition does and how people can become involved with our organization.

BART – Breion, I believe the last time I saw you was at the TN Respite fundraiser – the beer and cheese event. That was SOME event! I really enjoyed it! I also liked your presentation at the Caregiver Respite Conference in Memphis. You DO a lot of traveling, just like the staff at Vista Points. It’s so important to create the awareness of the service both of our companies provide and let people know how our services can help many people.

BREION – I agree, Bart. Being a caregiver for your loved one can take a toll on your own health. It is important to find help to take care of your own physical, mental and emotional needs. I’m sure, as Vista Points works with people of any age who are living with a physical, mental or intellectual disability, the caregivers need help.

BART – So true. I’m anxious to learn more about the TN Respite Coalition, what you do and how people can access the services your organization offers. Let’s start with: What is Respite, anyway?

BREION – Respite is a period of rest and relief. It is an opportunity for caregivers to take a break and take some time off for themselves. All the time, I hear ah, “What is respite?”, especially at TRC, because they hired me to go out in the community, in the community that may not have the resources and education on how to even get that help that they need. I serve the community of people that’s going through poverty, or, what’s even, just be, just flat out true, the African-American community. They hired me to go after that audience. And I get the question all the time, “What is respite?” So, we try to educate people that, and let them know it’s a break, it is relief. It is something that a lot of these families need.

BART – Good, thanks. Why would someone want to use respite?

BREION – Being a caregiver can be a very taxing and intensive job. Respite gives caregivers a chance to take some time for themselves, resulting in an enhanced quality of life.

BART – Do caregivers sometimes decline respite care, and why would they do that?

BREION – Yes, sometimes caregivers feel guilty accepting care. They also might not want others to take care of their loved ones, or they might feel that taking care is their responsibility. They also might not know about respite care or have the time to investigate resources.

BART – From what I understand, caregivers often feel stressed, exhausted and angry. Can respite help them?

BREION – For caregivers of adults and children with special needs, respite can offer a chance for them to spend some time on their own. The caregivers could run errands, go to health appointments for themselves, take a nap, read a book or just take a break and re-group which can leave you feeling refreshed. Making time for yourself can ultimately make you a better caregiver.

BART – Ok, now, let’s talk about the TN Respite Coalition.  What exactly does it do to help caregivers?

BREION – The TN Respite Coalition provides relief to families and caregivers for, well, from the extraordinary and intensive demands of providing ongoing care. Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for family caregivers throughout respite. 

BART – Can you give us some history on the TN Respite Coalition? 

BREION – Yes, I will be happy to tell you about our organization’s history. In 1996, a small group of individuals interested in respite met to discuss the status of respite in Tennessee. They called themselves the Tennessee Respite Coalition and set goals of raising respite awareness and increasing respite services to Tennessee. The group received funding to further their efforts, which included developing universal access point for respite and organizing Respite Awareness Days at the state Capitol. By 2000, the work had expanded to create a need for a full-time coordinator. At that time, the organization operated from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. As the organization evolved, the TRC transformed into an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit, which allowed it to receive grants and donations to support respite services. In 2006, Congress passed the Lifespan Respite Act. Three years later, Tennessee was one of the first seven states to receive a three-year Lifespan Respite grant. Though it works, the TRC has gained national persistence and development connections with respite leaders across the country. Today, the original goals set by the small group of volunteers in 1996 still remain at the heart of the TRC’s mission to enhance the quality of life for caregivers throughout Tennessee. I know that was a lot, but that is our history.

BART – That’s cool. I read on your company website that you have ways of helping people defray costs associated with caregiving. Will you tell us a little bit about that?

BREION – There is the Family Directed Respite Voucher program. It helps defray some of the cost of respite care for the family caregivers. We encourage families to be in control of the, um, well, we encourage families to be in control of empowered, to use respite as it meets their needs. And, please call our office. We can help you begin your application. The office number is 615-269-8687. 615-269-8687.

BART – Wow. Can you tell our audience why you became involved in the TN Respite Coalition and how it’s affected your life?

BREION – Honestly, I am a community-first guy. Everything that I do is about the community. I believe I am a superhero with magical powers. So, I’m happy that this is, like, my adventure’s place and location where I work. I have a heart string to this because I as a younger child helped my grandmother out and didn’t even know that I was quote and quote a caregiver. I was just somebody that loved my grandmother. And, luckily, I just learned how to take care of somebody in my family at an early age.

I just love this work. Everybody on my staff is great. I got a chance to meet with everybody, and everybody has that same passion. Our executive, she has a child with autism. She was just a mother trying to advocate for her child. And, look, she’s like just bleeding onto everyone else to advocate for their children and their loved ones. So, I’m just thankful to be here.

BART – Wow. You know, we were talking earlier, and you were telling about your grandmother. Can you tell me that story again?

BREION – Yes, so the doctor actually told her she had, like, eight months to live. And with the love that was surrounded by her and her faith, she actually lived ten years later. Got to see me go to high school, got to see all her daughters graduate college, got to see so much life.

But, one thing I reflected on early this morning, talking to you before we was in the studio, just thinking about how love can heal the person you’re taking care for. So, with these caregivers, we try to make sure that they have the choice and the option of picking the person that they want to be their caregiver because love and pure energy of just pouring into somebody can help them can help them physically, can help them mentally. I’ve seen it with my grandmother. I’ve seen it with a lot of different families. You want to be very intentional with people that are going through dementia or anything like that. You want to be very gentle with them.

BART – Thanks for sharing that story, Breion. Are there ways people can help the Tennessee Respite Coalition?

BREION – Yes, during the month of November, the TRC hosts events around the state for National Family Caregiver Month. Many of these events need donations of door prizes or pampering items for caregivers. Please call (615) 269-8687 for more information on how to donate items for caregivers. You could become a TRC volunteer, too. Go to our Volunteer Opportunities page for more information on how to volunteer. Our website is www.tnrespite.org.

BART – What was that website again?

BREION – www.tnrespite.org. I can spell it out for you, too. W-W-W- dot-T-N-R-E-S-P-I-T-E-dot-O-R-G.

BART – Thanks, Breion.

BREION – No problem.

BART – Thanks, Breion. I want to thank you for being on our Vista Points podcast today. Is there anything else you would like to add before we say goodbye?

BREION – I just want to say thank you, guys, for letting TRC be on you all’s podcast. And, we love you guys. We are thankful to be in partnership with you guys and in support with you guys. Keep serving the families. And, let’s keep changing lives together and making the caregiver world just a healthier and happier place.

BART – Thanks, Breion. I appreciate you sharing the stories with us today and the time you’ve provided for us today, insights about the Tennessee Respite Coalition. I am sure you have informed and educated others about respite and how necessary, valuable and life changing it is. Remember, for more information about Tennessee Respite Coalition, you can visit their website at W-W-W- dot-T-N-R-E-S-P-I-T-E-dot-O-R-G. That’s tnrespite.org. W-W-W- dot-T-N-R-E-S-P-I-T-E-dot-O-R-G.\

And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of Choose Your Path, a Vista Points podcast. Subscribe now to YouTube channel named Vista Points SNT, that’s S-N-T as in special needs trust. There you can subscribe and be notified of the latest episodes go live, which are on the 1st and the 15th of every month.

You can find past episodes on the Vista Points website at vistapoints.org, as well as a transcript of each podcast. The episode topics are in response to listeners’ questions! If you haven’t asked your questions yet, I encourage you to ask or share other concerns online or by calling us. When you’re online, visit the Vista Points page named Vista Points and send a direct message, otherwise known as a D-M, to Vista Points, that’s Vista-Points-I-N-C, VistaPointsInc, if you will. 

Or, call the Vista Points office at 888-422-4076. That number is 888-422-4076. Each of the Vista Points team wants to answer your questions and assist you in whatever way they can.

Now, enjoy your day with your loved one. Come back for more or look into past episodes of Choose Your Path. Regardless of where or when you find us, we walk beside you on your path. I look forward to our next steps together and speaking to you soon.