A three-sided farm on the edge of the idyllic 1,000-inhabitant community of Illingen-Schützingen in the Enzkreis district of Baden-Württemberg in the South of Germany – a place made for relaxing breaks from everyday life. Here at the Lebensweg family hostel, families with disabled children can recharge their batteries. It was all initiated by Karin Eckstein, a dedicated pediatric nurse.
Her concept is something very special. In a nutshell: What does the Lebensweg family hostel offer?
Since May 2018, we have been supporting seriously ill and / or disabled children and their families with short-term residential places equipped to meet their needs and with professional and caring all-round support from specialist staff. We attach great importance to security and a warm atmosphere and see ourselves as a place of relaxation, reflection and encounter for the entire family. Our needs-oriented concept is unique in southern Germany. The relatives themselves decide to what extent they place the care of their child in the hands of our dedicated care team. Freely according to the motto: Everything can, nothing must. In addition, we offer educational support as well as creative and meditative programs. But you can also simply do nothing!
How many families can you accommodate?
We are a small hotel with full board with a care area for ten families. The rooms in the care area are at ground level facing the garden. They are equipped with high-quality nursing beds as well as handicapped accessible bathroom and toilet and emergency call system. We also have a nursing and wellness bathroom with a lift system. Parents and siblings can stay in our well-equipped rooms for relatives, which are also handicapped accessible and have their own bathroom.
And how is Corona doing now?
We had several short closures, unfortunately also over Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
But the requests from parents were very urgent, because they are stretched to the limit by quarantine, home office, short-time work or home schooling. Often, during these uncertain times, caregivers don’t come, or parents don’t allow one, for fear of infecting their children. We have been open again since January, under strict hygiene rules and with one-to-one care in the nursing area. This means: one-third occupancy with the same staff capacity.
This results in enormous costs, even more than in normal times. Isn’t a stay with you incredibly expensive?
24-hour care is already cost-intensive. But the parents don’t have to pay anything for it, even though the reimbursements from the public authorities for care services generally don’t cover costs and we are not affiliated with any provider or umbrella organization. We are largely financed by donations, grants from foundations and membership fees. Family members only pay for room and board, because the services for parents and siblings are also financed by donations. Even those who cannot afford the costs are not simply turned away, we help in dealing with the authorities and always look for a way. Nobody is simply turned away! Even in the difficult last year we could count on numerous donors. The solidarity was enormous! For this year, we are very excited to see how things will go. Many of our supporters are suffering from the crisis themselves. At the moment we are also supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration with funds from the state of Baden-Württemberg regarding an inclusion project. Unfortunately, we can only implement this project very slowly at the moment, also due to Corona. But we will manage that too!
A truly groundbreaking concept. How did it all begin?
During my work as an outpatient pediatric nurse, I got to know many families who repeatedly reached the limits of their ability to cope with the care of their sick child. There was no suitable facility for this need in the whole of southern Germany. After a lot of research and discussions with existing facilities and affected parents, my concept was born. It also convinced my parents, who at that time were considering what to do with their farm and wanted to see what would happen to the property. Making it a family hostel was very coherent for them. We’ve always had open parents. And very generous parents. Money is secondary for us. So it came about that the parents gave us five siblings the largest part of the property as a gift, which we then brought into the non-profit GmbH as start-up capital. The parents still live in their house on the farm and have witnessed the whole development. That is very nice for all of us.