Inspired by and Built for Our Community of Caregivers
The only in-hospital facility of its kind in New Jersey, the Caregivers Center provides a tranquil environment and free support services for families managing the stress and special needs associated with caring for a critically, chronically or terminally ill loved one during a hospital stay.
“My world was turned upside down in one evening,” says Roma Raghavendra, of Basking Ridge, when describing the night Karthik, her 44-year-old husband, suffered a brain hemorrhage, which led to a stroke and being admitted to Overlook’s Neuro Intensive Care Unit. “I was scared. I was alone (my mother was watching our two young sons), and I was overwhelmed. And then I met Marian.
“She was an ear when I needed it, and she invited me to come over to the Caregivers Center. It was like a hidden gem! There, surrounded by soft music, comfortable chairs, and a serene environment, I was able to sit, relax, and decompress.”
During the next 15 days of Karthik’s stay in the ICU, Roma visited the Caregivers Center on a regular basis, grateful for the many services and resources offered by friendly, caring staff.
“When I didn’t feel like eating, they encouraged me to have a healthy snack and get a relaxing massage. When I had questions, they provided a wealth of information and useful materials. Heather, a child life specialist, was so great at preparing our nine-year-old son, Oliver, to visit his dad in the ICU for the first time – explaining in advance that he would have electrode monitoring devices on his head.
“I cannot tell you how incredibly important it is to have a center like this. I’ll never forget the kindness extended to me and my family by Valerie and the volunteers during an extremely difficult time. I feel like I’m part of a family now.”
Even Oliver, a third grader at Cedar Hill School, chimed in with his own five-star rating. “They had a Sony DVD player and let me watch my favorite video!”
“There are stories like this every day,” says Marian Teehan, a licensed clinical social worker at the Thomas Glasser Caregivers Center, which, since its opening in July 2011, has become a home away from home for increasing numbers of families with loved ones hospitalized at Overlook.
“We’ve created an atmosphere of caring and sharing here,” adds Teehan. “Some people like to sit with their laptops. Others enjoy the chair massage, and many find relief in just sharing their stories. They suddenly realize that they are not alone in their struggle. They have support.”
Serving as a place of respite and resource for approximately 100 families each month, the beautifully appointed space is located adjacent to Overlook’s main lobby and features a massage room, a resource library, computer stations, private waiting areas for larger groups, and a kitchen supplied with refreshments, snacks and soups.
The center offers complimentary relaxation therapies such as massage, Jin Shin Jyutsu, art activities, music and pet therapy; child life services for young visitors; referrals for community resources to help ease the transition to home; and spiritual care. Open seven days a week, it is staffed by Marian Teehan, a full-time licensed clinical social worker; Valerie Gagliano, the caregiver liaison and specially trained volunteers who regularly visit other areas of the medical center – such as ICU waiting areas – where caregivers often need support and guidance.
Programs Available for ALL Caregivers
While serving families whose loved ones are hospitalized at Overlook is at the heart of the Caregivers Center, it also offers much-needed support to caregivers everywhere.
“There are many people in a caregiving role in our communities,” observes Teehan, “and to ease their burden and isolation, we felt it necessary to offer programs that benefit all family caregivers.”
The Caregivers Center hosts art, music and writing therapy workshops that are open to the public. New this year is a Qi Gong class, a practice that focuses on gentle movement, breathing, and meditation to alleviate stress and calm the mind.
Caregivers in Overlook’s communities can visit a new Community Resource Library, which offers free informational material, including the Caregiver’s Resource Guide. Appointments can be made with licensed social workers and volunteers, who can help connect caregivers with critical resources. There are bereavement support groups for spouses, as well as for adults and children who have lost a parent, developed in conjunction with the palliative care, hospice and oncology departments.
“The Caregivers Center was inspired by the community and came to fruition because of an outpouring of community support,” Teehan points out. “We want people to know that it’s here for all members of the caregiving community – both within and beyond our hospital walls.”