Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals create spaces for family caregivers

Hospitals not only need to provide a healing environment for patients, but they also must give proper support to family caregivers. Caregivers play a significant role in a patient’s recovery, and if they don’t have the information and support they need, outcomes may not be favorable. 

In the fight to treat patients, the needs of their caregivers are often ignored. If caregivers aren’t given the tools they need to help their sick family members, it can increase hospital readmissions and hurt a patient’s recovery after a hospital stay, which negatively impacts the bottom line.

Some facilities have gone the extra mile to help family caregivers cope with the patient’s illness and get the information they need, as discussed in an article from Kaiser Health News.

Over the past 10 years, at least 11 hospitals across the country have created caregiver support centers, where caregivers can ask questions and access resources related to their loved one’s recovery. They can also speak with trained volunteers to receive emotional support and comfort during the person’s hospital stay.

Support centers are more comfortable than the typical waiting room, with soft chairs, soothing artwork and tissues to dry tears. They’re often stocked with coffee, fruit, chocolate and other snacks for patients’ family members.

One hospital’s center

One of the first caregiver support centers in the country was founded at New York’s Northern Westchester Hospital. Most other facilities with these support centers have modeled them after Northern Westchester’s, including Montefiore Medical Center, also based in New York.

Montefiore’s caregiver support center is staffed by a rotating roster of 30 volunteers, along with an administrative aide and a social worker. Families are encouraged to visit the center, which serves as everything from a place to relax and decompress to a space for having difficult conversations about their family member’s treatment.

The area has multiple private rooms for these conversations, along with a calming decorative waterfall. Montefiore created the area through a grant from the United Hospital Fund in 2011. Since then, an estimated 10,000 families have used the center, free of charge.

Improved engagement, mood

Caregiver support centers help bridge the gap between family caregivers and hospital staff. Often, caregivers report feeling alone, especially in cases where their family members are near death. No one approaches them or talks to them about their options. And in cases where patients will be discharged to their homes, family caregivers may need to ask questions about the person’s discharge plan to clarify areas of confusion.

At hospitals like Montefiore, the caregiver support center is where those interactions happen.

It would be beneficial for many facilities to have a similar center available for patients. Even if it’s just a converted waiting room, having a space devoted to caregivers can make them feel more engaged in the patient’s treatment – and it can also make them feel less overwhelmed by everything that’s happening to their family member.

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