MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. - On rare occasions, catastrophe inspires greatness. Such was the case for Marian Hamilton, founder of the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, which Marian Hamilton founded in 2006 after losing her husband to cancer.
Called a “900-square-foot oasis,” the center has three rooms to make families feel like they’re anywhere other than a hospital. Two social workers and over 25 volunteer coaches at the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center have over 7,000 interactions with family caregivers each year. They provide support in a myriad of ways: discharge planning, assistance in finding the right nursing home, helping navigate Medicare matters, as well as dealing with end-of-life-issues and funeral decisions.
The idea for the center came about when Marian Hamilton’s husband, Ken, was dying of cancer. “Although he got good treatment, there was little care for caregivers like me,” says the Armonk resident, noting that there are 46 million caregivers in our country at any given time.
“The professionals who are giving care to the patients don’t have time to give care to the caregivers,” adds Hamilton, who said she often felt alone during her husband’s struggle with cancer. “Sometimes, caregivers just need a nonjudgmental ear to listen, someone to cry with.”
Northern Westchester Hospital was immediately receptive to the idea, she said, and together with the hospital, Hamilton helped raise $2 million to build the "oasis" — which includes a room with a massage chair, another with a fireplace and a third containing a soothing waterfall feature. They also established an endowment fund for staffing needs.
Hamilton said she spent a lot of time talking with other caregivers to find out what kind of support they wanted and needed, and implemented those ideas when she started the center. The concept has gained tremendous ground. The center has produced a replication package, or how-to manual, for other hospitals interested in creating a similar sanctuary, and the staff at the center is now doing regular outreach work with a number of area hospitals and have helped them learn how to get their Caregivers Centers up and running.
And so, it is no surprise that Hamilton will be one of the honorees at the upcoming Northern Westchester Hospital Annual Benefit. The gala will be held on Oct. 27.