Answer: Heart and Conviction

Caregiver Kelsey Kuipers at the office planning her schedule

Question: What Do Student Athletes and Respite Caregivers Have in Common?

Many of Helping Hands Respite caregivers are college students with plenty of heart and conviction. They may have a special interest in working in our care environments, the operative word here being care; they may be drawn to working within a family environment to care for a child with disabilities because they are students in special education, nursing, or social work. Or, perhaps their area of study focuses on gerontology or adults with disabilities. One such student and caregiver is Kelsey Kuiper, a senior at Michigan State University about to graduate and get her first placement as a student teacher in a special education classroom.

Kelsey is a student athlete who, in most cases, does a great job of juggling work responsibilities with studies and athletics. She came to Helping Hands Respite Care in the summer of 2014 on the recommendation of a roommate who already was employed by Helping Hands. Within a short period of time Kelsey was working in several different homes. The children learned to trust her and would respond well to her directions and care. “In my special education classes we learn how to teach the child but not how to care for the child,” shared Kelsey. “I remember calling my Mom after my first couple of days of working with the kids, I felt so raw and was convinced that I was no good at this; but little by little I began to understand how to care for the child who was my responsibility and how to build a bond of trust.”

Student Athlete

It didn’t take long for Kelsey to become a valued and reliable caregiver for Helping Hands Respite Care. Unfortunately, Coach Suzy Merchant was having a bad run of luck with injuries and transfers on her MSU Women’s Basketball team. While, Kelsey’s main sports were Volleyball and Track, her height and athleticism made her a great candidate to strengthen the MSU Women’s Basketball team. Agreeing to play for Coach Merchant meant Kelsey had to stop working for Helping Hands. “On the bus ride back from our last game, I texted the scheduler at Helping Hands to let her know I was ready to come back to work,” said Kelsey. “Once I came to work at Helping Hands my experiences here confirmed my decision to be a special education teacher. Learning to care is at the heart of the teacher/child relationship and I will not forget that.”

Understanding the Value of Respite Care

One thing that Kelsey was not clear on was what her service would mean to the families. When asked about her understanding of the value of respite care she candidly replied that she really didn’t know what respite meant until she “Googled” it. “Now, I hope that what I am doing is also helping the families. It is great to see that look of happiness and relief on the parent’s face when I arrive for my shift.”
In August of 2015 we will be saying goodbye when Kelsey heads to her first student teaching assignment. We will be thankful for the time that she was able to give to the families we serve, and very sorry to see her go.

Learn more about what Helping Hands Respite Care is doing to extend the length of care provider service to help the families we serve.