Just knowing support is available eases family caregiver distress.
Patient families provide an amazing level of support for their loved ones in the hospital. Beth Suereth, a new volunteer at Thomas Glasser Caregivers Center at Overlook, knows the family caregiver experience well from many years of caring for her sick father.
When Beth discovered the center, she was delighted to join its team of volunteers to help other families in the same situation. “Family caregiving is very rewarding, but it’s filled with stress and anxiety. It would have made a world of difference if I’d had access to a family caregivers center when I was taking care of my father. Instead of feeling isolated and unsure, I would have felt like I had friends who understood what I was going through and were right there in the hospital with me every day.”
Social worker Marian Teehan, who serves as coordinator of the Caregivers Center, and caregiver liaison Valerie Gagliano provide a warm welcome to visitors to the center and train volunteers. They complement the physical sense of calm, where the bright lights and bustle of the daily hospital activities give way to subdued lighting, live plants, and soothing background music.
Marian and Valerie set the tone for the calm environment that lets families step away from the bedside to refresh and be on the receiving end of support for a change. And they share information with family caregivers about other helpful resources both in and out of the hospital.
“Valerie guided me on how to approach patient families at the bedside to make them aware of the center and all it offers,” Beth says. “The first time I saw Valerie give her overview, I watched a family member take in the information. In less than a minute, his whole demeanor changed. His hunched shoulders dropped, his eyes brightened, and his entire body relaxed with relief.
“The tension washed away just knowing that he has a standing invitation to talk with people who understand his situation, take a break without leaving the hospital, and get a snack or a cup of coffee to help keep himself going,” Beth adds. “For me, it’s enormously gratifying to have such a powerful effect on people experiencing a family medical crisis.”
To the families that visit the Caregivers Center, it’s a physical oasis in the middle of their inner turmoil. One day it’s a quiet place to make a private call or settle chaotic emotions, and another day it’s a place for a family meeting or a relaxing massage. Every day it’s a place for families to recharge so they can go back to their loved ones strong and ready to manage whatever lies ahead.
All are welcome at the Caregivers Center, which is located just beyond the hospital’s information desk, across from the gift shop.
For more information about the center, please contact Marian Teehan at 908-522-6347. Gifts to support the work of Marian and her team can be made by visiting overlookfoundation.org and selecting “Donate Now,” or by calling 908-522-2840.