National Family Caregivers Month in November: Tips for Family Caregivers from The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center

The pandemic has put a spotlight on the challenges faced by caregivers, an issue that has become a national crisis. This past June, a CDC report found that 70% of parents of children under age 18 and unpaid caregivers of adults reported adverse mental health symptoms during the pandemic, and federal legislators are currently considering The Credit for Care Act of 2021, which aims to provide caregivers with a tax credit.

Two decades ago Rosalynn Carter’s testimony before the senate Special Committee on Aging, still rings true:  there are only four kinds of people:  Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.

In May, 2020, AARP’s report Caregiving in the USA found 53M Americans (one in five) are caregivers up from 43.5M in 2015. 

In recognition of National Family Caregivers Month this November, Jerri Rosenfeld, LCSW, program director of the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center (KHCC) at Northern Westchester Hospital urges caregivers to take a moment to look at their own health.

November is National Caregiver Month. The Ken Hamilton Caregiver’s Center at Northern Westchester Hospital offers support strategies for caregivers.

“Caring for a family member can be rewarding, but it is also frustrating, stressful, exhausting, sometimes overwhelming and increasingly common, says Rosenfeld, explaining that the KHCC was established 15 years ago to provide caregivers with emotional support and resources in a hospital setting, and became an increasingly important support system for caregivers and hospital staff during the pandemic.  “Caregivers often neglect themselves and are at risk for depression and anxiety. In order to have the stamina necessary to care for others—whether you are a family caregiver or a healthcare professional—it is important to find ways to care for your own physical and mental health.”

“The good news is the healthcare industry is starting to realize that caregivers need help,” she adds, noting that KHCC has been replicated by 23 sites, including community hospitals, small cancer centers, teaching hospitals and an acute rehab center. In California, Stanford opened a Caregiver Center in November 2019, and this month, the Mayo Clinic is launching a pilot program at its Phoenix, AZ hospital

Rosenfeld offers the following tips:

Recognize signs of stress: Physical reactions to stress may include difficulty falling and staying asleep;  headaches; feeling anxious and overwhelmed; an inability to concentrate; exhaustion; anger; and irritability. Stress can affect blood pressure, lipid and glucose levels, and lead to cardiovascular problems.  If you feel physical effects of stress, schedule an appointment with your physician. If you find yourself crying, losing your temper, having fantasies of rescue or flight, speak up.

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize just how much stress you are feeling. The National Caregivers Library Caregiver’s Self-Assessment Questionnaire can help you figure out how you are.

Reduce your stress: Taking care of yourself should be a high priority.  If you cannot function, your loved one will suffer as well.  Make sure to have a support network of people with whom you can talk, confide and gripe. Other ways to reduce stress include regular physical activity; relaxation techniques, such as breathing, yoga, or mindfulness; making time to see friends; and participating in other activities that you enjoy.

Accept Help: Think about ways in which family and friends can be helpful in advance. Some possibilities include helping with grocery shopping; running errands; preparing meals; doing laundry; carpooling; paying bills; staying with the patient to give caregiver a break; and providing updates to a wider circle of people if desirable.  When someone offers to help, share ideas that will make your life easier.

Connect with other caregivers:  Consider participating in a support group where you can share concerns, practical issues, and problems. As a result of the pandemic, many support groups are meeting virtually, so proximity does not have to be a barrier to participation. Regardless of the medical condition you are dealing with, caregivers generally share many of the same concerns, and it can be helpful to know you are not alone.

Take breaks when you can: Taking a break is not only okay, it is crucial in helping caregivers maintain their health and wellbeing. A break may be as simple as watching a half-hour sitcom while your loved one is taking a nap.  Look for opportunities to take breaks, and give yourself permission to take advantage of that time.

Try journaling: Keeping a journal can provide comfort, and a place and time where you can feel totally safe expressing your feelings. Consider various types: a  gratitude journal that highlights what you are thankful for; a venting journal, where you start writing without prompts and go wherever your mind leads; or a reminiscence log, where you record fond memories of your loved one. Try making journaling a regular habit.

Acknowledge the many rewards of caregiving: Caregivers say the experience has brought them closer to their loved one, and—in some instances—provided an opportunity to heal old wounds. Being a caregiver takes patience and compassion, and there are rewards in recognizing those qualities in ourselves and being a role model for others.  Knowing you did your best can also provide closure.

Finally, give yourself a pat on the back: Caregiving is a tough job. Realize you are doing the best that you can, and you are entitled to have your own life as well.

The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center offers a free monthly virtual support group that meets the last Tuesday of every month from 9:30 to 10:30 am.  If you are interested, please contact [email protected].  For more information, visit

About The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center

Opened in 2007, the Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center was the first in-hospital facility of its kind in the New York metropolitan area. It was named in memory of a community member who was cared for by his wife, Marian, at home and in many hospitals during his battle with lung cancer.

For two stressful years, Marian Hamilton juggled caring for her husband with her role as mother to two teenage daughters. After Ken’s death in 2004, Marian was inspired by her experience, realizing that hospitals are often not equipped to help caregivers in a meaningful way. Marian approached Northern Westchester Hospital because her vision of a caregivers center dovetailed with the hospital’s participation and belief in the Planetree model of patient-focused, family-centered care.

About Northern Westchester Hospital

Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH), a member of Northwell Health, provides quality, patient-centered care that is close to home through a unique combination of medical expertise, leading-edge technology, and a commitment to humanity. Over 650 highly-skilled physicians, state-of-the-art technology and professional staff of caregivers are all in place to ensure that you and your family receive treatment in a caring, respectful and nurturing environment. NWH has established extensive internal quality measurements that surpass the standards defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA) National Hospital Quality Measures. Our high-quality standards help to ensure that the treatment you receive at NWH is among the best in the nation. For more information, please visit and connect with us on Facebook.

About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, 830 outpatient facilities and more than 16,600 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 77,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,800 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We’re training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit and follow us @NorthwellHealth on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.