By Joan Goodchild, Community Reporter
Marlborough – Going to the hospital either for either treatment or to support a loved one is a trying experience. But at Marlborough Hospital, a group of caring volunteers is working to make visiting that hospital as uplifting and positive as possible for anyone who walks through its doors.
The Marlborough Hospital Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) is a group formed in October 2010 as a result of a mandate from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that charged all hospitals in the commonwealth with establishing a patient and family advisory council. The group, consisting of adult patients, family members, caregivers and health care providers, has managed to get an impressive number of objectives accomplished in just a year.
Among the group's accomplishments is what members refer to as a “kid-friendly emergency department” that includes a child-friendly waiting area with toys and other items to help keep children entertained. The emergency department family room has also been revamped, according to volunteer and PFAC Co-Chair Maureen Letendre.
“The family waiting room was pretty dismal,” Letendre said.
The committee wanted it to be a warm and inviting place for people to wait for news on loved ones. So, working with a designer friend, Letendre said the group made changes. The room now features softer lighting, painting in brighter tones and new furniture.
Letendre said she was inspired to become involved in the PFAC at Marlborough after her own mother's experience there with end-of-life care at the facility.
“We'se really focused on the patient experience,” she said. “Knowing patients at the end of life can be made more comfortable in the way people care is a beautiful difference to make.”
Plans in the works now include creating a “comfort cart,” which will feature materials to provide comfort to a family in the midst of a difficult time dealing with a family member near life's end. The cart will be filled with a variety of items, from a CD player with soothing music to choose from, to books, tapes, activities, reading materials and a number of afghans knitted by community resources, including the Marlborough Senior Center. The patient and/or their family member can select an afghan to be used during the family member's time on the medical surgical unit or in the intensive care unit. The afghan can also be taken home.
The hospital's chapel will also be redone, Letendre said, to have a more non-denominational feel. The redesign was inspired by a touching prayer book in the room where visitors fill in their prayers, meditations and thoughts.
“The room will mirror the sentiments in that book,” Letendre said.
In conjunction with the hospital's Ethics Committee, the PFAC is also working to identify and provide a series of brochures that provide family members with thought-provoking scenarios in the face of difficult decisions. The ongoing program will review the various resources available for patients and their families faced with making complicated health care decisions.
And a patient education effort has made a mobile cart with a computer available on which waiting patients and others can watch education DVDs on health issues such as smoking cessation and low back pain.
The group is actively seeking volunteer members and asks anyone interested in joining to contact them at 1-508-486-5624 or e-mail [email protected]ssmemorial.org to receive an application.