Hospital patients are often not the only ones who need support — many times their caregivers do also. To help provide for their emotional needs, Northwell Glen Cove Hospital last week opened a new Caregiver Center for patients’ families.
Glen Cove Hospital Executive Director Kerri Scanlon advocated for the center and said she is happy to see it open. The center, she noted, is available to caregivers of those receiving inpatient or ambulatory-care services, as well as hospital staffers, patients, visitors and community members.
“We’re looking forward to seeing this center be a destination that can help provide resources,” Scanlon said.
The Caregiver Center, near the hospital’s first-floor main entrance, was part of a larger $750,000, 2,600-square-foot project, which also includes a renovated lobby, reception area, gift shop and café. The center provides emotional and psychosocial support, as well as a place for caregivers to take a break, whether their loved ones are at the hospital or in the community. Volunteer coaches throughout the hospital help identify caregivers who need support. Social workers staff the center.
“Being a caregiver is stressful on a good day,” said Susan Rassekh, the hospital’s director of patient and customer experience, “but when the loved one is in the hospital on top of it, and you’re trying to live your life outside of here while still taking care of that person, there’s a lot more to it. The level of stress increases exponentially.”
The center is modeled after the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, which was founded in 2007 by Hamilton’s widow, Marian Hamilton, who felt she could have used more support during her husband’s illness. According Rassekh, Northwell executives noticed the positive impact that the center was having on patients and staff members, and recognized its importance. Patients’ family members could have their questions answered in a safe environment, freeing up doctors and nurses to focus on patient care.
“It started to take some of the weight off the shoulders of the staff as well,” Rassekh said, “and they started to recognize it was helping them help their patients in the long run.”
Caregivers, Rassekh said, often do not receive the support they need for a number of reasons. For one thing, she said, they many times put their loved ones’ health before their own. “What we find in some cases is the caregiver passes away first,” she said, “because they completely forget to take care of themselves.”
Often, she said, caregivers do not recognize themselves as such — caring for a parent, a child with special needs or another relative is just what they do, without question. “What we’re really doing is shining a light on the fact that you are a caregiver, and you need to also have some self-care,” Rassekh said. “This is an opportunity for us to take care of you.”
She said the volunteer coaches and social workers meet with caregivers one on one to assess their concerns and guide them toward the community resources that they need. “For instance, if a loved one is ready for discharge to a rehabilitation facility,” she said, “a social worker can help the caregiver navigate their choices and find one that accepts their insurance, check ratings from appropriate organizations and is close enough to home to make visits easy.”
Features of the Caregiver Center include:
Two reclining sleeper chairs in private areas where caregivers can relax.
A resource center with computers, desks, phones and Wi-Fi.
Two conference rooms for private consultations with care teams.
Caregiver support groups.
Lounge areas with aromatherapy, music and spiritual support with onsite chaplains.
A kitchenette stocked with healthy snacks and beverages.
The center is open around the clock seven days a week, and is also available to staff members who are caregivers outside of work.
Glen Cove Hospital’s volunteer Community Partnership Board funded the new Caregiver Center. The initiative was led by the late Barbara Hoover and the co-chairs of the group, Bea Banker and Adrienne Jones.
“Barbara’s entire passion project was to make sure that, specifically, the underserved in the community would have access to health care, to information and to education about health care,” Rassekh said. “And she really wanted that to be one of our missions of the hospital.”
Additionally, Northwell Health and the hospital’s auxiliary supported the project to redesign the gift shop and café, while the hospital also modernized and revamped its public spaces on the first floor used by visitors, patients and staff.
Because of the hospital’s close relationship with the Glen Cove Senior Center, Rassekh said, connecting patients to that resource will be an important part of the center’s mission. “A lot of aging in place is going on in this community,” Rassekh said. “Anyone who’s discharged home can be referred to the senior center, where they can get a hot lunch daily and a social worker who can guide them into other community organizations that will help them. So there’s a lot of synergy along those lines.”
Christine Rice, the Glen Cove Senior Center’s executive director, said she thinks the Caregiver Center will be a game-changer for many older adults and their families. “There are so many levels of emotional support that may be helpful for a caregiver, whether they’re dealing with difficult family dynamics or physical, mental, psychological and spiritual needs,” Rice said. “It’s so important to have positive support and someone to speak with. Having the caregiver center as a resource is a very welcome addition.”