Omega House now offering respite for home caregivers

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Omega House Executive Director Michael Lutz sits in the facility’s new respite room.

HOUGHTON — Being a home caregiver can be a 24-hour-a-day responsibility.

With that in mind, Omega House recently added a respite room, in which home patients can stay short-term while their caregivers experience some time away.

“What we’re seeing is that these caregivers are getting stressed out, burned out,” said Michael Lutz, executive director for Omega House. “They get so encompassed caring for the individual that even their own health takes a backseat. And what we want to do is allow these caregivers to get the break that they need, whether it be for a few days or several weeks. We can care for their loved one here while they go on that much-needed vacation they haven’t had for years.”

That break can ultimately make them a more effective caregiver when they return, Lutz said.

Carol Pfefferkorn, marketing coordinator at Omega House, said being a full-time caregiver can lead people to pull away socially, leading to a greater long-term chance of depression.

“If someone has a chance to go to a wedding, get away for a weekend, or even a vacation, we’re here to take that burden away from them,” she said.

The respite care room also offers 24-hour support to people recuperating after surgery, illness or hospitalization.

The idea for the room dates back to 2014, when Omega House held a strategic planning meeting, leading to several programs to benefit the community. The facility began offering hospice services 12 years ago, helping more than 500 people in that time.

“Our board felt we could expand our services to encompass more of our community outside people facing a terminal illness,” Lutz said. “We just didn’t know what to do with this garage.”

When the Omega House building was constructed 12 years ago, the room was envisioned as a garage. In recent years, the room had been used mostly for storage. But the founding members and designers left open the possibility it could be a room someday.

“They already had the plumbing in the floor, and this big picture window was here, so that cosmetic part didn’t have to take place,” Lutz said.

Last year, Omega House teamed up with the Western U.P. Health Department to send out a questionnaire that went out to many of the health care professionals and clergy in the area. The response included an overwhelming response in favor of respite care.

“That’s all it really took to get the board to decide, let’s convert the garage into our eighth room,” he said.

The room already has some bookings in September and October, Lutz said.