Who Cares For The Caregivers? The Iris Respite House In Moon Will Soon Offer Them Self Care

The Caregiver B&B being opened by Lisa and Charles Story would be the first in the region — and possibly the nation.
Iris Respite House House

PHOTO COURTESY OF HOPE GROWS

When Lisa Story lost her father to pancreatic cancer in 2005, she was at a loss in dealing with her grief, so she took to the earth around her Moon home.

Beautiful gardens, each with a different theme, were the result of her healing process. Today, Lisa and her husband, Charles, are hoping to help others heal from the earth and get some much-needed down time.

The couple is opening The Iris Respite House, an overnight wellness bed and breakfast at 183 Shafer Road, in January to give caregivers some time to recharge their batteries. 

The Iris Respite House currently has two bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, ready for caregivers to rent for a night or two. The house will eventually have four bedrooms when  renovations are complete. 

Iris Respite House Bedroom2

PHOTOS BY DENISE BONURA

Eighty caregivers are already on a waiting list to book rooms when the house officially opens. The cost will be $150 a night. Family Hospice, a 42-year-old hospice organization that is now part of UPMC, has applied for a grant to help offset the cost for caregivers staying at the B&B.

The Iris Respite House is the first of its kind in the region, and possibly the country, says Dr. David Nace, chief medical officer, UPMC Senior Communities and assistant professor of medicine, University of Pittsburgh Division of Geriatric Medicine.

“I think it’s a need that’s unmet. Caregivers might not have the income they had previously or have diverted funds, so taking a vacation may not be possible. This is a chance for them to step out, get out of the environment they were in and give their mind a break from the stressors to allow their creativity to come back,” he adds.

Iris Respite House Bedroom1

At the Iris Respite House, guests would enjoy breakfast in addition to visiting a trail on 2.5 acres and eight healing and restorative gardens — The Garden of Hope, The Garden of the Inner Child, The Garden of Harmony and Peace, The Pollinator Garden, The Garden of Faith, Pap’s Garden, The Garden of Intent and The Garden of Rest. The respite house also will provide mental and emotional counseling from a clinical team of mental health professionals.

Iris Respite House Japanese Garden

THE GARDEN OF HARMONY AND PEACE AT THE IRIS RESPITE HOUSE AND HOPE GROWS IN MOON.

Other features include a large enclosed sun porch, an indoor pool, the skylight-flanked living room and kitchen. The Storys are also hoping to put in spa and salon facilities downstairs so guests can schedule a massage or even get a haircut — which are difficult for full-time caregivers to schedule. Future plans also include creating a labyrinth, pond, chapel area and forest garden.

Iris Respite House Sun Porch

“When my father passed away in 2005, I had never really grieved the death of my mother, who died 20 years prior,” explains Lisa. “I was grieving them both at the same time. I was looking to heal, so I retreated to nature. I started to dig the pain I was feeling into the dirt, and we created gardens around our home. That’s when I was starting to heal.”

Lisa is a certified horticultural therapist, a licensed professional counselor and certified thanatologist with experience working in hospice and grief. She says she began researching what was lacking in the Pittsburgh region and discovered that caregiver support is not common in the area. She also notes 1 in 5 Americans is an unpaid family caregiver.

In 2012, Lisa began her nonprofit, Hope Grows, which provides an environment that allows caregivers to receive counseling and phone and virtual support. Hope Grows was the recipient of the 2022 UPMC Caregiver Champion Award.

Though Hope Grows has been blooming for a decade and now serves 1,300 caregivers in nine states, Lisa says the idea for the bed and breakfast was planted in 2011.

“I went to my husband and said, ‘What do you think about turning this place into an overnight bed and breakfast for caregivers?’ He said, ‘Have you lost your mind!?’” she laughs. “He eventually came around, and I couldn’t do any of this without him!”

Lisa notes in 2019 she received a divine intervention while working in The Pollinator Garden.

“It was a still day. Suddenly, there was a burst of wind and the Celtic Woman song, ‘I Am The Voice’ came on the radio. It basically was saying that I’m holding your hand, and it’s time to transition to the bed and breakfast,” she says.

Lisa, Charles and Hope Grows received the greenlight from Moon officials to renovate their home to create the wellness bed and breakfast. The nonprofit is now set to open once they receive an occupancy permit from the township. The blue-bearded iris is the theme of the B&B because it is the flower that represents caregiving.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the home in early December, with elected officials noting how excited they are for such an innovative facility to open in the township.

Nace says the respite house comes at a time when it’s most needed.

“We have a shortage of caregivers and health care workers,” he explains. “Baby boomers are retiring and that workforce is shrinking. We knew this was a crisis before the pandemic, and since the pandemic, it’s blown up. We need to preserve the population of caregivers we have,” he says. 

He said a respite house of this kind is a very “novel” approach. Caregiving has always been looked at from a perspective of placing the patient, rather than the needs of the caregiver. 

“This is putting caregivers in a local environment that’s very healing. They are offering an experience, rather than a destination, and that makes it unique.”

Categories: BeWell