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May 13th, 2016

Why parents need a hospital playroom too

By Amy Albin
Volunteer Shannon Allbright leads the weekly sewing circle in the Chase Child Life department at Mattel Children’s Hospital. The circle is just one of the activities designed to help parents of patients de-stress. Here, a group of parents are joined by KCBS reporter Lisa Sigell, who recently reported on the sewing circle. Photo credit: Amy Albin

Volunteer Shannon Allbright leads the weekly sewing circle in the Chase Child Life department at Mattel Children’s Hospital. The circle is just one of the activities designed to help parents of patients de-stress. Here, a group of parents are joined by KCBS reporter Lisa Sigell, who recently reported on the sewing circle. Photo credit: Amy Albin

Everyone knows that, for kids, being in the hospital is no fun. That’s why UCLA Health’s child life specialists make sure hospitalized kids still get to be kids. They staff playrooms, orchestrate social events and bring movies and games to kids’ bedsides.

Now, child life experts nationwide are recognizing that kids’ parents, who are stressed and anxious about their children’s health, need some fun too.

“When we think of a pediatric patient as a child, it helps us remember that the patient is part of a family unit. As child life specialists, we support family-centered care, which recognizes that the patient’s illness affects the whole family,” said Kellye Carroll, director of the Chase Child Life Program at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

In support of that family-centered care, the Child Life department at Mattel Children’s launched a family resource room. Initially set up as a resource library to provide health-related information, the space is evolving into a playroom for caregivers, providing the same therapeutic support that the traditional playroom provides for the children.

“It is a place for parents to relax while their children play next door in the playroom. Here, they can take a break and rejuvenate so they can better help their child,” said Denise Matsuyama Lai, a UCLA child life specialist and coordinator of the family resource room.

The room has support beyond hospital staff. For example, once a week, hospital volunteer Shannon Allbright, who teaches sewing classes, brings sewing materials to the resource room for parents who find that busy hands help soothe worried minds. Allbright offers free sewing lessons to adult caregivers. Often, as the adults sit around the table working on a simple sewing project, they begin to share their stories -- and their stress starts to lift.

“It’s really about the parents getting a little bit of a break because they are going through the worst time of their lives,” Allbright said in a KCBS/KCAL news story about the sewing circle.

The Child Life Program offers other free, stress-busting activities such as parent teas, manicures and haircuts, and Zumba classes. And team members  are looking to offer more.

They welcome volunteers or organizations who can provide instruction in activities such as:

  • Simple crafts, including origami, jewelry making, knitting, crochet or embroidery
  • Health and wellness activities, such as exercise, yoga, meditation and massage
  • Experts to teach parenting workshops

“Many of our patients have complex illnesses like cancer or organ transplants and they’re here for weeks and months at a time. The parents are with their child around the clock. If we can help the family have less stress, then that means better care overall for their child,” Carroll said.

If you have a special skill and would like to volunteer, please contact the UCLA Health Volunteer department at www.uclahealth.org/volunteer.

Tags: adult caregivers, Chase Child Life Program, child life specialists, children’s health, family resource room, family-centered care, Kellye Carroll, Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, News & Insights, pediatric patient, Shannon Allbright, volunteer

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