UNION, NJ - Community Access Unlimited (CAU) has opened a new Respite Home in Union Township that provides short-term safe and nurturing care to people with disabilities and respite to their families and caregivers so they can travel, undergo medical procedures, have home repair work done or take time away from care giving for any other reason.
"Caring for loved ones with disabilities can be a full-time job, and at times a very demanding one," said Sheila McDowell, assistant executive director of disability services at CAU. "It is only natural and even healthy that they receive respite from their responsibilities at times.
"At the same time they do not want to feel guilty about leaving their loved one and want the peace of mind knowing they are staying someplace where they receive the same care and attention by trained personnel as they receive at home. That is why they chose Community Access Unlimited. We have been providing comprehensive care to people with disabilities for 36 years."
CAU is a statewide nonprofit providing support programs and services to more than 6,000 adults with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, in areas including vocational and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation and in-home services.
The home, called Knollwood, is the new home of the CAU Respite program. It is a ranch-style home that is wheelchair-accessible and houses up to four visitors in private rooms for one to 30 days. While there the visitors participate in recreation, attend day programs and enjoy their own personal activities. Trained staff are with them 24/7 and take them for medical appointments, social engagements or errands.
Families and caregivers are referred to CAU Respite through the Family Support Unit of the state Department of Developmental Disabilities.
"We've had some families bringing their loved ones to CAU Respite for 18 months or longer," McDowell said. "They're so pleased with the care and attention they are given that we've earned their trust."
Kim Sharpe is one of these parents. She has been bringing her son, Dwight, to CAU Respite for nearly two years and his next visit will be later this month.
"He likes it there," she said. "My son is a social butterfly. He gets along with all participants very well. The love and care that someone shows to their child is very important to a parent. Once we have this bond between us, between Community Access and myself, it became very easy. They are someone I can trust with my son.
"They are very responsive to any concerns I have. It's not about collecting a paycheck for them. You have to have that will to care for a person with a disability. It means the world to me.
David Orwochi is the assistant program director at Knollwood. "Kim has been using our service anytime she needs to travel or has a conflict," he said. "She took Dwight someplace else once and said she would never do it again.
"We had another parent who was very skeptical because her daughter has high needs. I told her, 'Ma'am, this is what we do. We take care of our visitors, give them whatever care they need.' She ended up extending her daughter's stay. She said, 'My daughter is very happy while she's there.'"
Margaret Rector and Fanny Sacca are two visitors currently staying at Knollwood. While at the home Rector attends a day program in Springfield, enjoys her private room, which she keeps clean, and watches television. Staff take her shopping and help her select what clothes to buy. "I like it here," she said. "The staff is very nice. They care about you."
Sacca attends day program at CAU's Day Habilitation Services program. She likes to sew or go shopping or to the Dunkin Donuts with staff and enjoys getting fresh air and seeing what's going on in the neighborhood."I like it here," she said. "They're very respectful people. I would like to come back."
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 36th year of success in 2015, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives a voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil rights. CAU serves more than 6,000 individuals each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us at 908.354.3040 or www.caunj.org, or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.