Hamm received respite while caring for grandmother 

By Barbie Porter


Those taking care of a spouse, child or family member may feel as if the world is on their shoulders. Their days revolve around giving a loved one the care they need, and sometimes it can be easy to forget about giving oneself personal care. That is where Mackenzie Hamm and many other respite volunteers make a world of difference.

The 2000 Frazee High School graduate was the benefactor of respite care providers while she was caring for her late grandmother Gertrude Lomsdal. Hamm explained when a care provider came into her home it allowed her to run errands or take time to do thing she enjoyed, which weren’t possible to do with her grandmother due to mobility issues.

“It can be hard to take care of yourself when you are a caregiver,” Hamm said. 

Understanding the importance of the helping hand, the Frazee resident knew she had to answer the call when the opportunity arose.

While working at her church, a member of the Lutheran Social Services, came to visit. She provided brochures and explained there are clients in the Detroit Lakes area in need of respite care.

“We were asked to put it in our church bulletin that they were looking for help,” Hamm recalled.  “And, she asked if we’d be interested in being a host site for clients.”

A host site allows people to bring those who need a little care to a centralized location, which in this case was a church. The clients come for up to four hours and spend time doing crafts, chatting or other social activities. Hamm and another church member volunteered to be hosts every Wednesday.

Before beginning the project about a year ago, Hamm said Lutheran Social Services provided plenty of training. The volunteers went over policies and were prepped on how to respond to certain situations. Training also provided volunteers with a book filled with ideas for activities or how to spark conversations.

“They set volunteers up to be successful,” Hamm said. “And, if you have a question you can call them anytime.”

There is also the option of going into a person’s home and volunteers can decide which level of care they are comfortable with providing. Hamm explained those that come to the church are able to take care of themselves, such as go to the bathroom. 

“I’m sure you could do more training to provide more care to severe cases,” she said. 

While those receiving the service, as well as the clients, get a lot out of the service, Hamm said she has found volunteering to be extremely rewarding. 

“I feel like I get just about as much out of it as the clients,” she said. “We play games and hear stories of their past. They really appreciate it, too. I feel like it teaches a lot of compassion.”

There were a many opportunities for the volunteers to get to know the clients before COVID-19 shut the project down temporarily.

“So, now we make phone calls to people in the area,” Hamm said. “I have about five that I call two or three times a week to check in.”

Lutheran Social Services also provides care givers and their clients with an iPad to use to connect them with the world during social distancing recommendations. 

For volunteers Lutheran Social Services offers student loan forgiveness and stipends. Hamm said she didn’t go that route, but recommended those with student debt consider it.

“I encourage people to try it if they have the time,” she said. “And there are different amounts of time volunteers can agree too, even a couple hours a week. It makes a difference in someone else’s life.”