Link with respite care agency expands marketing

Choose organizations with similar focus, philosophy

Family caregiver burnout is a real concern for nurses who also check on the well-being of the caregiver during patient visits. Studies have shown that a large majority of family caregivers experience fatigue, frustration, and stress; that two-thirds of caregivers believe that caregiving has strained their marriages; and that one-quarter have felt despair as a result of caregiving.1

Partnering with a respite care agency or referring caregivers to churches or other community organizations that offer respite care are effective ways to help patients' families deal with the stress of providing care.

In Port Byron, IL, a nonprofit respite care organization and a home health agency have found that the partnership also can be used to increase visibility and expand marketing opportunities for both organizations.

"It's the best of both worlds," says Elizabeth Saelens, executive director of the Faith in Action (FIA) program in Port Byron and senior program director for Lighthouse Homecare. The faith-based volunteer respite program offers free companion visits, respite care, light housework, and transportation services for clients. "If the client reaches the point where more in-home care or nursing care is needed, the nonprofit organization refers them to Lighthouse," she says.

The Faith in Action program relies on volunteers so community awareness is a critical part of the program's success, says Saelens. At the same time, marketing services also is important for the agency, she adds. "When I started working at the home health agency, I saw how the two organizations could work together to improve service to clients as well as to improve visibility in the community."

When a client starts service with FIA, medication needs are assessed as well as the client's overall situation such as mobility and physical needs, says Saelens. "Our volunteers are with clients two to four hours per week, and they have an opportunity to see if the client's situation has changed to the point that nursing or personal care is needed," she says. When this occurs, the volunteer reports the changes to a supervisor who can contact the family with information about the agency.

On the agency side, the affiliation with FIA makes it easy for staff to refer family caregivers to FIA if the staff believe there is a need for some respite care other than the nursing care, says Saelens. Staff members have been used for caregiver seminars for FIA clients, which are open to FIA volunteers as well, she says.

The affiliation between FIA and the agency is not a formal business relationship, but is an informal arrangement, says Saelens. "My involvement in both organizations has made the arrangement work smoothly, but other agencies can work together to define the affiliation," she says.

The first step in determining if your agency and a community organization can work together successfully is to look at your mission statements, suggests Saelens. The focus on client satisfaction and a concern for client safety and health were common to FIA and the agency, she points out.

Look at the services offered by each organization, recommends Saelens. "You want to make sure that your services will complement each other's services." For instance, FIA volunteers don't perform personal services, but Lighthouse staff members do, she explains.

Finally, evaluate your service areas, says Saelens. "You must both serve the same areas or a portion of the same areas," she says. "FIA does not have volunteers in all areas that Lighthouse serves, but our contacts with Lighthouse clients give us a chance to reach out to churches in those areas." As more churches become involved, FIA will extend the geographic area that it serves, she adds.

Overall, the partnership has been well received by FIA clients and Lighthouse clients, says Saelens. Staff and FIA volunteers appreciate the increased exposure for both programs and, as she points out, "We are both able to serve more clients."


1. Kasuya RT, Polgar-Bailey P, Takeuchi R. Caregiver burden and burnout: A guide for primary care physicians. Postgrad Med 2000; 108:119-123.

Need More Information?

For more information on partnering with a community organization, contact:

  • Elizabeth Saelens, Executive Director, Faith in Action, 22621 Routes 2 and 92, Port Byron, IL 61275. Phone: (309) 523-3880. Fax: (309) 523-2080. E-mail: