Trissie Osborn created and runs a respite program for caregivers

Photograph by Jessica Turner.

Trissie Osborn is always the cheerful type, but catch her on a Thursday and you’ll find the Mississippi native happy as a two-tailed hound. It was then that she welcomed dementia patients to Journey, the respite program she created and directs at Highland Park United Methodist Church. Participants and their families sing the praises of Osborn and his many volunteers, but she thanks God for the abundance of blessings the program returns to her each week.

Osborn was leading the church’s pastoral program for congregants 80 and older when a church member came to her asking for help with her husband, a retired minister. Caring for him since his dementia diagnosis had become a full-time job – and more. She realized that for her and for him, she needed a break.

“We didn’t have the bandwidth to create a new program at the time, but it kept coming back,” recalls Osborn, who began researching programs in North Texas, attending training sessions and talking to knowledgeable people working in nursing homes and memory care. centers. She read literature and watched videos, deciding that she would only start the program if she could do it right.

No one in his family suffered from dementia, but Osborn had compassion for its devastating effects. About 20 years earlier, his mother had suffered a severe stroke at the age of 70.

“It really rocked my world,” admits Osborn. “She was so outgoing. She circled around me. My parents had moved to Dallas just before that, and she was helping us raise our three little boys at the time. She was a wonderful mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law, and she was an extension of our family’s care.

Boots Mohead returned to Mississippi to receive significant medical support after her stroke, and Osborn traveled back and forth to care for her mother before her death at age 84. Although her mother’s ailments were different, the lessons she learned were invaluable.

“Every day is different and it takes a lot of patience,” she says. “It can be extremely frustrating for the person who has been active and lively but is now barely able to walk and sometimes finds their thoughts confused. They may know what to say, but not how to say it. Their soul remains, and they have so much left to give.

The journey started with nine participants and nine volunteers, and quickly grew to a full class of 15. They start each day with breakfast and social time, followed by discussions with a weekly theme. They have enjoyed the music of an era from an early age and do “sit and fit” exercises in their chairs. A catered hot lunch is followed by lessons and more themed games. Osborn is a Southern party planner with a Pinterester heart, so she works hard to balance creating fun experiences without overwhelming her loads.

“It was a learning experience. Things have to be adjusted because everyone is in a different place along their journey to dementia. People need to go out, socialize and be around people. They need to use their skills and feel valued.

Caregivers use their four hours as they see fit — some go to lunch or go to the movies with a friend. Some attend their own doctor’s visits or hairdresser appointments after ferrying mom to all of hers. Some go home exhausted and take a nap. Many have started participating in the program’s support group for caregivers – sharing tips, exchanging doctor’s notes and exchanging resources.

“They have formed a community as they drop off and pick up. No matter where you are in the journey, it’s tough and they support each other. When they pick up at 10 a.m., they may be stressed, but when they pick up at 2 a.m., they are different people. It’s amazing what four hours can do. And it’s important to know that someone cares.

Osborn asks his volunteers to sign up once a month, but most come weekly. The only preparation is to learn to slow down.

“It’s fulfilling and rewarding to engage people and see them filled with joy and gratitude. Caregivers are the heroes at home and volunteers are the heroes here at Journey. They are amazing.”

Osborn hopes more area churches and synagogues will create programs like Journey because the need is great and the waiting list grows. Participating in Journey is free – amazing since some programs charge up to $100 per day. Email [email protected] to donate to the program, add your loved one’s name to the list, or become a volunteer. If you can’t commit to four hours, Osborn has another idea.

“Just go sit with your neighbor. Help them with gardening or bake them cookies. Talk to them and give them time to respond. The caregiver needs to know that they are safe with you. There’s so much we can do – and you can do your bit.

Learn more about this year’s fierce women.