The Respite Care Flat

This room saved my life – not only Agnieszka’s”- confessed Katarzyna Koszelnik in the conversation, which you can listen to by playing our audio. Agnieszka was born with Prader-Willi syndrome – a rare genetic disorder evoking, among others, perpetual hunger and behavioural disorders. Katarzyna has taken custody of her older sister after the death of their parents.

Katarzyna and Agnieszka are one of the families that regularly profit from the facilities offered by Wrocław’s Respite Care Flat. Providing the carers/ families of people with disabilities a break from daily care for a relative by taking temporary custody in a specially adapted room/flat is one form of short break services.

Foundation „Potrafię Pomóc” renovated and equipped its respite care flat on the cusp of 2018 and 2019; in the middle of 2019, the first guest crossed the doorstep of the flat. It was Mr Sebastian, the bedbound person. His sister told us about her experiences:

Sebastian was provided with specialist and comprehensive care. Thanks to it, I could, for the first time, go with my mother and daughters on vacations. For us, it was a time of happiness and peace, and it was not broken by any troubles connected with taking care of Sebastian. All staff was wonderful and lovable. My brother was on a "walk" for the first time in decades. The ladies from the respite care could spend time with him outside as they have at their disposal the appropriate equipment for that (wheelchair). We are sincerely grateful for this help and heart from all the ladies.

This is what distinguishes this institute from others in Poland, Europe and even the world. Wrocław’s Respite Care Flat guarantees a week or two weeks stay and specialist care for people with disabilities, including bedbound people, severely disabled, demanding enteral feeding or assisted breathing. Our institution offers help for, among others, families of people whose disability is so severe that no other forms of respite care may be available for them. That is why the relatives/carers need so much break for respite: relaxation but also doctor appointments. Often, these people are extremely exhausted and burned out.

The Respite Care Flat of Foundation „Potrafię Pomóc” is equipped with advanced technology for the transportation of disabled people (Polly system), a specialist bed, and a nurse call system. The bathroom is adjusted to the needs of a person with a disability, including a shower bed inside. We also have an accessible lift that helps people with mobility impairment to get to the entry doors of the respite care flat.

The project „Respite Care in Wrocław Commune,” co-funded by Wroclaw Commune, involves the citizens of Wrocław and is free of charge for them. Short break services are directed to the members of families or carers who are in the custody of a disabled person with a certificate of disability or a person who needs support in daily functioning because of difficulties with handling basic daily activities due to their health state. As a part of the project, we offer, as well, psychological support in the form of support groups for families/carers. Every year around 50 people and their families use the services provided by Respite Care Flat of Foundation „Potrafię Pomóc.”

We will tell you more about this form of Respite Care during the conference in 2023 hosted in Wrocław.


When you walk around Wrocław, little bronze figures of dwarves are sure to catch your attention. Even though they are only 30 centimetres tall, you cannot pass them up, as there are almost 400 of them. They’ve certainly made themselves feel at home in the city. You might find them near various monuments, galleries, universities and even in front of hotels and restaurants.

Where did Wrocław’s dwarves come from? This fact remains unknown even for many citizens of the city….

There are many legends about the origins of the dwarves. One of them says that the dwarves were summoned by the authorities to help the habitants of Wrocław get read off an annoying goblin who had been making their lives miserable. Another version of the legend says that the dwarves have been helping the citizens of Wrocłw for ages in return for food and a place to live.

However, the historical truth is entirely different. It dates back only to the 1980s’ - the times when the underground organisation, Orange Alternative, was standing up to the censorship and absurdity of the communist era with the humour and happenings focused on political events and celebrations of anniversaries and state holidays. One of the most famous actions of the organisation was painting orange dwarves with a flower in hand in the places where the militia had previously covered anti-communist slogans. In this way, Wrocław's dwarves contributed to overthrowing communism.

Today, the dwarves remain the symbol of Wrocław and even have their own holiday. Currently, there are around 380 figures of friendly dwarves in the city. Each one is different, and they still grow in number. Taking part in ISBA Conference 2023, you will definitely meet many of them, such as Kind-One, Democrat, Helpik, as well as, Wrcoław’s disabled dwarves: Deaf One, Blind One and W-Skers (Wrocław Without Barriers). Possibly you will also have an opportunity to participate in their holiday – Wrocław Dwarves Festival organised in September.

Read more: The official travel guide in Wrocław. Places, events, monuments, restaurants.

The importance of respite care for everyone - explains the Potrafię Pomóc Foundation Founder

1. Let us talk about respite services as such. What is especially notable in this kind of support?

I believe respite services are a unique and much-needed form of support because they draw attention to a group of people who are often forgotten. The closest family members, those who provide care for people with disabilities on a regular basis, who often devote all their time to that care. Like anybody else, carers also need a break. And respite services provide them with such a break, preventing burnout. It is often mistakenly assumed that the main beneficiary of respite support projects is the person living with disability, in need of care, or the elderly. However, the prime focus here is their family, people from their immediate environment. Of course, people with disabilities also benefit from respite projects.

2. The next International Short Break Association (ISBA) conference will be held in September 2023. Why should people attend?

Attending this conference is, among other things, an opportunity to see how respite programmes work in other countries. It will be a space in which we will share our experience and discuss possibilities of adopting particular ideas in our countries, where we will brainstorm to open up to new solutions and perhaps even improve them. The conference will also facilitate networking between organisations from different countries - this is always a very important aspect. An inspiring meeting among specialists is priceless.

3. The conference location, Wrocław and Lower Silesia - are they also assets of this year's edition?

Of course! On the one hand, the conference is a meeting of experts, specialists and professionals who can jointly develop innovative solutions, and on the other hand, it is an opportunity for participants to have a nice time in an interesting place - it is part of the conference programme. Lower Silesia and its capital, the city of Wrocław, have plenty to offer. Wrocław is one of the most beautiful, most visited Polish cities with a remarkable history and many modern attractions. You can read about some of them on our conference website. Lower Silesia also offers a wealth of different kinds of experience. Visiting tourists are usually delighted. I suggest that as you plan your visit for the conference, you might also consider spending a few extra days here to delve deeper into the city and the region.

4. Please, tell us about your Association/Foundation.

Our "Potrafię Pomóc" (I Can Help) Foundation was set up in Wrocław almost fifteen years ago. It emerged out of collaboration started between parents of children living with disabilities and rare diseases. We decided to work togeher to find solutions and help our children, to support other families who found themselves in a similar situation. This is how our story began, and today, the Foundation is a well-established organisation that supports around 10,000 people every year. We run the first respite care flat in Wrocław, which is also intended for people who are bedridden or require respiratory support or enteral feeding. We run assisted living projects and summer activities for children and young people with disabilities. Our initiatives in Wrocław include: Rehabilitation and Education Centre for Exceptional Children and Therapeutic Pre-school Facility for Exceptional Children. We have established the Bartłomiej Skrzyński Diagnostic and Therapeutic Centre for Rare Diseases, which is quite unique in the country, and we run the Accessibility Institute. We are happy to share ideas and keen to observe good practices, collaborate with other organisations, the local government and representatives of state institutions - we know very well that "More is Possible Together"!

Respite care services - an interview with conference organizers Imago Foundation

1. Let us talk about respite services as such.  What is especially notable in this kind of support?

The key objective is to support families and those caring for older people or people with disabilities, to enable them to regenerate, both mentally and physically, to mitigate stress involved in performing everyday tasks, so that they can function better as they fulfil various roles in life. At the same time, it is equally important to offer e.g., people with disabilities an opportunity to take part in activities that foster their development, in line with their needs. Without these, the service will not succeed.

2. The next International Short Break Association (ISBA) conference will be held in September 2023. Why should people attend?

The ISBA conference is a unique opportunity to learn about international solutions in the area of respite and family support services. In addition, it creates an opportunity to forge connections with people from other countries, who are committed to their work and who also value the power of relationship building. For the first time the conference will take place in Poland, and since previous conferences have been organised in the US, UK, Iceland or Australia, participants from our part of Europe will now have much easier access to the event. In my view, due to the extraordinary openness of the ISBA community, it has always been more than a conference - it is an experience!

3. The conference location, Wrocław and Lower Silesia - are they also assets of this year's edition?

The event fits in with the city's long-standing policy of promoting Wrocław as open-minded, “Wroclaw - The meeting place”, or “Wrocław Without Barriers”. The city has traditionally hosted large international events such as EXPO, EURO and World Games. The overall ambience is conducive to meeting new people, given a rich cultural and tourist offer, which is true of both Wroclaw and the entire region.

4. Please, tell us about your Association/Foundation.

For more than 10 years, Imago Foundation has been a national pioneer in the development of personal assistant and respite services, accessibility, vocational counselling and adventure therapy. Our programmes currently benefit approximately 450 people per year in six different cities and regions in Poland. Networking with public administration institutions and other foundations or associations is our daily bread, a way to achieve our goals. Cooperation with our foreign partners has always been an inexhaustible source of inspiration which we like to share - in recent years we have organized more than 40 study visits for over 400 participants.

The role of respite service

1. Let us talk about about respite services as such. What is especially notable in this kind of support?

People who care for a dependent family member on a daily basis tend to arrange their entire life around that care. As they commit themselves wholeheartedly and strive to provide the best possible care, they often forget about themselves and their own needs. Caring for a dependent person on a continuous basis can be very exhausting physically and mentally. That is why it is so important to give carers the opportunity for respite, a break from their demanding duties, a moment just for themselves, which is how I imagine respite services need to be implemented.

2. The next International Short Break Association (ISBA) conference will be held in September 2023. Why should people attend?

As a non-governmental organisation, we keep an open attitude and look for new solutions. We implement many ideas intuitively at first and then come up with proven solutions. However, we are aware that there are many such solutions and proposals, and many of them are already fully operational, including their legal aspects. That is why it is worthwhile to attend the conference - it will be an opportunity to participate in an international 'brainstorming', an 'idea factory', where we can both examine data presented by others and generate our own ideas. Join us!

3. The conference location, Wrocław and Lower Silesia - are they also assets of this year's edition?

Yes, definitely! Wrocław is a "meeting place" full of open-minded people. In the streets you can also come across little dwarf statues, among them those with disabilities. The city is the capital of truly magical Lower Silesia - you may want to see and experience its ambience for yourself.

4. Please, tell us about your Association/Foundation.

BONITUM - Wrocław-based Association for People with Intellectual Disabilities was established in 2014 by parents of adult children with intellectual disabilities. One of the Association's successes has been creating the BONITUM Community Self-Help Centre, set up in 2018. The Association organises numerous workshops, trainings, lectures both for people with intellectual disabilities and their families and friends, provides personal assistant and respite services, organizes integrative tourist trips, competes in numerous Special Olympics disciplines, cooperates in the Work Coach project. Members of the association also attend scientific conferences, co-produce award-winning THEM-movie series episodes and participate in international projects.