Staff, volunteers, and families came together on Friday, December 2 to celebrate the first anniversary of the opening of the two Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto Family Rooms at the Centenary site of Scarborough and Rouge Hospital (SRH).
The Family Rooms offer families of seriously ill children a ‘home away from home’ just steps away from where their sick child is being treated. Families with children in the Paediatric unit and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) don’t have to leave the hospital, or even the unit, for their self-care needs.
“The rooms have not only been a benefit to patients and families, but also to the staff that work in the children’s program,” said Danielle Powell, Manager of the Children’s Program at SRH’s Centenary site. “The staff have been proud to introduce the rooms to families, to encourage them to take some time for themselves.”
The spaces are equipped with a lounge area and TV, a kitchenette stocked with beverages and snacks, and washrooms with shower facilities. They are open and staffed every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the sleep rooms available 24 hours a day. Thanks to the 53 volunteers who work in the rooms, 873 families have been supported this year.
“Without the volunteers, this space is just a pretty room,” says Deborah Holmes, Director of Programs and Operations for RMHC Toronto. Gesturing around the room on the paediatric floor, she said, “this is a room of rest and respite, where volunteers provide families with the basics of life and staples for comfort: safety, shelter, some food, and someone to listen.”
Sani Samari used the Family Room on the paediatric level many times this year when her 16-year-old son Saif was in hospital for a total of 45 days over several months. “When I need rest, I come here to relax,” she said. “Everybody here helps me. And having the room helped so much; being able to shower made me feel so much better.”
When family and friends come to visit Saif in hospital, they can rest in the Family Room too. “They all want to know why they don’t have this in their hospital,” said Sani, smiling. Her husband Tahrir has napped in the recliners, while her son Layth, 22, has stayed overnight in the sleep room. “It feels like family here,” said Layth.
The Family Rooms demonstrate how RMHC Toronto and SRH are supporting the active involvement of the family in patient care. Research shows that when parents stay close to their ill children, and are less-stressed and well-rested, they are able to be more involved in clinical decision making and care. This leads to a better experience for the patient, the family, and the clinical staff.
There’s no doubt that the Family Room has created a better experience for Samari and her family. Asked if she had anything else to say about the room, her voice grows heavy with emotion. She said, simply, “thank you.”