Having a loved one in the hospital is often a harrowing experience. It doesn’t matter if the patient is receiving outstanding medical attention, the primary caregiver may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of keeping a family going amid the stress, worry, and in certain situations, grief.
Marian Hamilton knows that feeling well. Her husband, Ken, died from cancer in 2004 and although he received excellent care, she realized it was the medical professionals’ job to take care of the patient and not her and her family.
In 2007, Hamilton filled the gaping void felt by thousands of families by establishing the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center at Northern Westchester Hospital. A quiet room just off the main lobby of the Mount Kisco hospital, there are 29 volunteers who rotate to help counsel and console family members, provide them a cold drink or simply a space to sit quietly in comfortable surroundings to collect their thoughts or catch up on phone calls or emails.
“They need a place to cry, to talk to somebody who is non-judgmental, not a family member or a friend,” said Hamilton who volunteers on a weekly basis. “We’re there for them.”
The center, open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, has had such an impact on those who have visited that Hamilton, a 26-year Armonk resident, will be honored later this month with the Quality of Life Award during the 34th annual Volunteer Spirit Awards held by the Volunteer Center of the United Way. The ceremony will be at the Doubletree by Hilton in Tarrytown on Thursday, Apr. 24.
Not only has the caregivers center provided thousands with a respite from their worries–an estimated 7,000 people used its services in 2013, according to Hamilton–it has spawned similar centers in at least eight other hospitals in the metropolitan area and around the country that have used the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center as its model.
Now, there are similar facilities that have been created or are in the planning stages at Montefiore Hospital, White Plains Hospital, Westchester Medical Center, Danbury Hospital, Englewood and Overlook hospitals in New Jersey, the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia and MidMichigan Health in Midland, Mich.
Hamilton said she was deeply honored to be recognized by the Volunteer Center, one of several recipients from Westchester and Putnam who will receive awards. She said creating the center, which she referred to as an oasis, helped her through her healing process.
“This is also for all the family caregivers who work tirelessly to take care of their loved ones and often neglect their own needs during their difficult time,” Hamilton said.
Northern Westchester Hospital President and CEO Joel Seligman called Hamilton’s dedication to helping families and caregivers “incredibly inspiring.”
“Too often, family caregivers don’t get the attention and support that they need in order to best help their loved ones,” Seligman said. “We can’t thank Marian enough for choosing Northern Westchester Hospital as the home of The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center. The positive feedback we have received from caregivers and patients reinforces how valuable these resources are.”
Focusing her energies on helping people in the community is nothing new for Hamilton. Over the years, she has participated including once serving on the Byram Hills Board of Education, and more recently, an active volunteer for the Armonk Outdoor Art Show.
Hamilton is also looking forward to meeting some of the other award winners who have served their home communities during the upcoming ceremony.
“I’m very, very proud to be part of that group,” she said.