It’s been a full year since the Marsal Caregiver Center opened its doors at Burke—and its effects are palpable, reverberating throughout the hospital, from the caregivers themselves to the entire patient experience.
“The reaction to the Marsal Caregiver Center has been overwhelming; families are taken aback when they enter and realize that the space is specifically for them,” says Colleen Borrelli, MS, Vice President of Patient Experience at Burke. The Center opened at the tail end of May 2018.
Take Sherry Glore, for instance: She would accompany her boyfriend, who has emphysema, to his Fit for Life sessions at Burke, which he began taking after completing outpatient pulmonary physical therapy. One of the therapists at Burke told Glore about the Center, and she decided to check it out.
“When I first entered the Caregiver Center I was given a tour and told of the amenities available—coffee, tea, etc. The setting was very calming, and the volunteers were very friendly and helpful,” Glore explains. Soon, she began visiting the Center three times a week, whenever her boyfriend had an appointment.
Glore is just one of many who have found the space helpful over the past year. From June 2018 through April 2019, caregivers have used the Center more than 6,000 times. Nearly 2,000 patients have visited with their caregiver—and there have been close to 150 outpatient caregivers and 26 community caregivers who have utilized the space, proving that the benefits of the Center have extended even beyond Burke.
And the reactions from caregivers speak for themselves: “It’s a ray of sunshine as you are going through the storms and changes of healing.” and “I just needed a moment to myself. It’s going to be a long day and this helps.” and “Wonderful space, I could feel the tension melt away.”
But how does the Center help? It offers a peaceful and separate space within the hospital where caregivers can find information and support—or simply take a break. There are a variety of services and programs—from a mindfulness group to a meditation group to a physical therapist-led caring for the caregiver group, which helps caregivers learn to take care of themselves while doing the same for someone else. Plus, there are a variety of other resources, such as 10-minute chair massages, coffee, tea, computers and private rooms for meetings—and the Center is open seven days a week.
“It’s been a very positive and evolving experience,” says Carla Assenza, LCSW, Dana Reeve Director of the Marsal Caregiver Center.
The program is led by Assenza, with the help of volunteers—currently 18 of them. “They are all trained to be ‘care ambassadors,’ as we call them, to provide active listening and resources and to refer to myself if they need further assistance,” explains Assenza. “Some volunteers go out to the floors to try and capture the caregivers to provide them information, support and to make sure they are aware of the Center.”
For caregivers like Glore, these volunteers have been an integral part of the experience. When she first began visiting the Center, she would continue to read or do Sudoku puzzles as she had done previously—but soon became friendly with a few of the volunteers. “Over time I found myself entering the Center and spending time just talking to the volunteers, such as Anne, Joann and Gary,” she says. “On one particular occasion I was experiencing some stress about a family situation, and Carla, the director of the Center, not only took time to talk to me, but also did some research for me.” And when she had a bad head cold, Anne made her a cup of tea—and then not only purchased the tea for her, but made sure it stayed at the Center until Glore was able to pick it up.
“The impact on the patient experience has been multi-faceted,” explains Borrelli. “Patients often tell us how glad they are that their loved ones have a beautiful place like the Caregiver Center to go to for information and help. Caregivers who feel supported are better able to then support the patient they love and this impacts recovery. Our physicians and residents see the difference that having a support system makes in the rehabilitation progress of a patient.”
As the Center moves into its second year, even more programming is on the docket, including a caregiver orientation and a monthly support group.
Says Borrelli: “One year in we could not be any more pleased about how the Center has been received, is being used, and will be used in the future. Expanding to a seven-day operation means that we can be a resource to families on weekends when they are often most available to come to Burke. No other center in the country is staffed seven days a week. When we look at the high usage of the Center and the varied ways that it is serving the needs of the families of Burke patients, we are more confident than ever about the value of the program and the place.”
Learn more about the Marsal Caregiver Center.