Respite for the caregiver

Sharon Lawton was curled up on the couch in the living room. The comfy couch. That was important. She needed that feeling of home, of being enveloped in the softness and warmth of that familiar piece of furniture. Sharon was exhausted. She had gone “over the river and through the woods” on a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood to get her required exercise in her recovery from a blood and marrow transplant.

Her husband, Ken, sat nearby. He was also comfortable in the living room of Kevin Guest House, a place which became his home for the better part of a month while Sharon was at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to receive her treatment.

“When Sharon had to come up for stem cell harvest, we went through the American Cancer society but they put us up in a hotel, not far away,” Ken said. “And then we decided after being there a week, this is just a lot more homey. That’s what nice about it.”

Home. That’s what Kevin Guest House felt like for Sharon and Ken, who live about three hours away from Buffalo in Canton, Pa.  And while Sharon appreciated her own stay at Kevin Guest House, knowing Ken had a place to go became critical for her. Sharon did not want Ken at the hospital all day. And Ken, as Sharon’s  caregiver, needed an opportunity for his own self care.

“I wanted him to go away and do something instead of sitting there all day long,” Sharon said. “He would come over for breakfast, make sure I did my exercises and then he’d go to Kevin Guest House, eat lunch and do laundry, then come back to the hospital. He’d leave a couple times a day which was nice for him and nice for me. You don’t want somebody sitting there staring at you all day long. The convenience of it is very nice.”

Proximity is the key factor in the convenience with Kevin Guest House just two blocks away from Roswell Park. But for Ken, it was more than just the distance. The house on Ellicott Street offered him some much needed respite, a place where he could be alone if he wanted or enjoy the company of others on a similar journey.

“Just being able to come down to the kitchen, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, or get a glass of ice water and sit down at the table and just relax, was so helpful,” Ken said. “And it’s nice have other people around. Whether they’re coming from Roswell or Buffalo General, or whatever, everybody’s got a story. Everybody is going through something. It’s nice talking to them.”

Getting assistance from other caregivers is one of the 10 tips offered by the Caregiver Action Network.  November is National Caregivers Month. Be sure to take of yourselves so you can take care of your loved ones.

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