Care for the Caregiver June 2, 2022

For well over three months, Laura Marks attended her daughter’s bedside at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, waiting anxiously as Maria fought to recover from pancreatitis. Like many caregivers, Laura struggled to manage her own physical and emotional needs as she grappled with the impact of Maria’s illness.

A month or so after the family’s ordeal began in February, a team member invited Laura to visit the hospital’s Caregiver Center, which provides a lifeline of emotional support, assistance, and resources—free-of-charge—for caregivers, whether they be family members, medical staff, or members of the community in need of support.

“Often, right next to the patient, is a caregiver who’s under a tremendous amount of stress,” says Caregiver Center Coordinator Katy Kreienbaum. “Our goal is for people to come in, recharge, and take time for themselves.”

Fully funded with philanthropic support, the Caregiver Center offers a welcoming and relaxing oasis, centrally located near the gift shop and Phillips Cancer Center, yet far enough removed to provide a quiet place of rest. The space features a fireplace, expansive windows to let in abundant natural light, and beautiful artwork by local Virginia artists. The Center also includes a business hub with a computer and phone charging station, a snack station, and a private meeting space with a tranquil water feature for relaxation and meditation.

For Laura, a favorite spot was the small, quiet room equipped with a massage chair for personal retreat. “I began to visit the Center whenever Maria was taken out of the room for a procedure or test, because it was pretty depressing to sit in the hospital room all day, every day,” Laura says. “It was wonderful just having a change of scenery, away from the beeping machines. It was a peaceful place where I could close my eyes for a few minutes.”

The Sentara Martha Jefferson Caregiver Center is one of just 22 such programs in the United States and a model for the entire Sentara hospital system.

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