Oak Harbor adult respite program expands

Caregivers’ Cove Executive Director Kristi Huffman, left, hugs the manager of the new Flagship Adult Day Center, Melissa Stickel, at the center’s grand opening on Tuesday. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Caregivers’ Cove Executive Director Kristi Huffman, left, hugs the manager of the new Flagship Adult Day Center, Melissa Stickel, at the center’s grand opening on Tuesday.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

After suffering through some financial difficulties in 2010, the employees of the nonprofit North Whidbey Caregivers’ Cove, an adult day respite program in Oak Harbor, are counting their blessings. On Tuesday, the workers opened a second location, named Flagship Adult Day Center, with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

A few months ago officials from Regency on Whidbey, an organization that offers retirement and assisted-living services, found themselves able to lease out a cottage on Kimball Drive and offered the space to the Caregivers’ Cove program.

“I knew about their need and their program,” said Sande Mulkey, who works for Regency’s marketing department. “It’s much needed in our community.”

Regency made a large donation to the program to help them cover a portion of the rent and another private donor covered an additional three months-worth of payments.

“Sometimes we lose sight of caregivers and how important it is for them to have a safe, loving facility to bring their loved ones to,” Mulkey said. “It’s huge. And we don’t realize how huge it is until we’re put in that position.”

Caregivers’ Cove’s mission is to improve the quality of life for its clients and to give caregivers some rest and relief from the physical and emotional demands of providing 24-hour care for a loved one. Caregivers’ Cove is open four days a week and caregivers can take their loved ones to the centers for a few hours to allow themselves time for work, school or other errands. Caregivers’ Cove employees lead the participants in stimulating activities for both the mind and body like indoor sports, coffee discussion groups, hands-on crafts, field trips and exercises.

The program’s executive director Kristi Huffman said though there are many caregivers on Whidbey Island, few take advantage of the services because they have the program stereotyped as an old folks home or babysitters.

“We are not a sitting service,” Huffman said. “No dust settles on us.”

Huffman has 17 years’ experience in adult care and believes she has the optimal program. In addition to her respite services, Huffman also provides resources and information for struggling families who need tips and advice. In her annual review conducted by the Washington Adult Day Service Association and the Northwest Regional Council, Huffman said she received top marks.

“It’s about keeping people healthy, happy and allowing loved ones to stay at home as long as possible,” she said. “Many caregivers wait too long to get assistance, and then it’s too late.”

The Caregivers’ Cove program costs $10 per hour, but Huffman said she’ll never turn people away because they can’t afford to pay. She works hard to secure grants and scholarship money to help out families. All adults ages 18 and older are welcome at the centers. Huffman works with adults that have special needs such as Alzheimer’s and stroke-related dementias, multiple sclerosis and who are developmentally delayed. Currently, her participants range in age from 34 years old to early 90s.

North Whidbey Caregivers’ Cove is located near the senior center in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Avenue, and the new location is farther south on Kimball Drive. It’s equipped with a functioning kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, cozy living room and dining room.

“I’m just totally excited,” Flagship site manager Melissa Stickel said. “I think it’s going to be a great partnership with Regency and hopefully a second location will give us more exposure to people on the island.”

The city cut North Whidbey Caregivers’ Cove out of its 2011 budget, so the program will have to do without the $18,000 of government funding it had in the past. Huffman said the organization is always accepting monetary donations as well as center supplies like furniture and craft materials. All donated items are tax-deductible. Also, the organization is currently looking for volunteers for its board of directors. For more information, click here.

Adult Day Respite Centers

  • Cargivers’ Cove, 917 E. Whidbey Ave, PO Box 1647, Oak Harbor, 279-4592, 279-4590

  • Flagship, 994 SW Kimball Drive, C101, Oak Harbor, 360-320-7502

  • Program info: or under North Whidbey Caregivers’ Cove.

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