By Jeff Wilson–
Phelps Memorial Hospital’s Riverview Cafe was all abuzz September 18 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the new Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Caregivers Center, a dedicated space to give family caregivers a place to go for a timeout from what can be a very trying endeavor.
Alice Marie Hales, joined by three of her children, Lianne Hales-Dugan, Allison Hales-Gheen and Thomas Hales, Jr., along with her extended family, gathered with hospital staff and other members of the Phelps leadership and donor community to celebrate the grand opening of the new facility.
The sparkling suite boasts a resource library, a respite area with a massage chair, a private section for confidential consultations, a kitchenette with refreshments, and a desk area that includes computers, telephones, and internet access. The space is modeled on the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco. (The KHCC has been replicated in 24 facilities at hospitals nationwide, including at six Northwell Health hospitals on Long Island and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.)
The new space complements the services provided by Phelps’ Caregiver Program, launched virtually in 2020 to give caregivers the emotional support, counseling, access to social workers, and other resources necessary to navigate the current health care system. The Center also offers educational and training programs, as well as amenities such as hospitality and care baskets. Now folks have a place to “chill” as well.
The move to prioritize caregivers is justified by the numbers. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are approximately 53.5 million people providing care for family members in the United States, while the New York State Office of the Aging estimates that New York alone has 4.1 million caregivers.
The physical and mental strain of being a caregiver is all too visible to medical professionals who observe them firsthand. “It’s really difficult. It takes a lot out of you,” said Dr. Tobe Banc, MD, Phelps’ Senior Vice President and Medical Director, who spoke at the event. Banc, who practices geriatric medicine, cited studies about “family members who sometimes have to give up their jobs, their livelihoods, their life savings…” and the depression that results. Banc praised the caregiver center as a place where families could come and sit, have access to resources and the comfort and support of staff.
“Most caregivers don’t recognize the pressure they’re under,” added Gaby Naranjo, MSW, the senior program manager at the Center, proudly noting that she and her staff had 600 interactions with families and provided 400 hours of support over the past year. Their goal for next year is 1,000. Naranjo recited a litany of services provided by the Center – virtual support groups, helping family members who may not be able to leave a dying patient. Social work interns would be arriving in January, she said.
Phelps’ executive director Eileen Egan summed up the value of “investing” in caregivers. “Helping patients and family caregivers goes to the heart of what we do. If caregivers are supported, then patients will be better cared for, too,” she said in a press release. “This type of hospital program fills a gap in services sorely needed in today’s health care system.”
And Lianne Hales-Dugan, a member of the benefactors’ family, summed up the need the Hales’ gift would serve: “At some point in time, every family will go through the emotional and physical stress of caring for a loved one. Caregivers today need help,” she said. “This center is a lifesaver for families who need the tools and support to navigate a complicated health care landscape. Our family is proud to support this important resource for the community in which we live.”
For more information about the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Caregivers Center at Phelps or to request a consult, visit https://phelpsgiving.org/caregivers-center.
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Epilogue to “Phelps Staffers Pool Resources to Send a Dying Man Home to His Family in Guatemala” – Hudson Independent, July 22, 2023
Herber Sazo, who received his dying wish to go home to die in Guatemala, has passed away. He died in his son’s home on Sunday 9/10, a little after 8pm. He was with his hired nurse, his mother and his eldest son, Herber (Jr.), and left this world peacefully and without any pain. As he was dying, he asked his son to please remember to call Phelps Hospital and to thank his team of doctors one more time for him. “They loved me at Phelps. I felt loved by everyone I met there,” he said. His son really wanted us to know that.” –Todd P. Dezen, Public Relations Advisor, Phelps Hospital