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Volunteering as a Family Affair

April 25, 2019

Volunteering as a Family Affair

It’s not unusual for Alan and Suzanne Waxenberg to be out having dinner, when someone will walk over to their table and say: “I know you. You took care of me at the hospital!”

The Waxenbergs aren’t doctors, or even clinical staff. They are among an active team of volunteers who spend their time greeting visitors, visiting patients, performing administrative support, and taking part in vital groups and programs. In fact, they are one of eight couples who make volunteering together at White Plains Hospital a family affair. The experience is not just personally rewarding, but health-inducing.

Suzanne is a longtime co-president of the Friends of White Plains Hospital, a group of volunteers who help raise awareness and money for the Hospital. For her, becoming a patient advocate was a natural.

“When we both retired, we wanted to stay involved and active, to stimulate the mind and body,” says Suzanne.

They chose White Plains Hospital, Alan says, because: “It was the best. We knew that. We had lived here and had friends who were patients in the Hospital. Their reputation was excellent.”

Both Alan and Suzanne had an interest in and connection to wellness long before they joined the Hospital. Shortly after Alan retired from a career as a magazine publisher, Alan was diagnosed with cancer and spent time in a New York City hospital for treatment.

It was there he experienced firsthand the significance of caregiver support centers. Caregiver support focuses on the family of the loved one in the hospital, helping them to coordinate patient care both while in the hospital and post-discharge, which is often overwhelming.

Alan’s personal experience made such an impact, that he became a key player in the formation of the Caregiver Support Program at White Plains Hospital.

“Alan and I are both very much people persons,” she says. “We really are hands on here in the Hospital talking, working, listening with patients.”

In addition to being a key member of the Caregiver Support Program, Alan is an ambassador in the Emergency Department, a volunteer in Radiology, and serves on the Foundation board.

“Everyone that comes into the hospital Emergency Department is frightened, they’re scared,” notes Alan. “We try to give them some comfort. We hear about it after they leave how much they appreciated us being there to hold a hand, bring a cup of water or food, and talk.”

Sometimes, the biggest impact comes from doing very little. As a patient advocate, Suzanne will visit the rooms of patients and attend to their needs, or sometimes just sit with them and listen.

The body of research extolling the benefits of volunteering is immense, especially for older adults and retirees who sometimes struggle to maintain social connections and activity when they leave the work world. In that way, volunteering is a great insulator against isolation and depression.

In addition, keeping your brain active and learning new things helps to fend off dementia.

“It reduces stress, we stay involved and discuss health issues,” says Suzanne. “We have made so many friends here, so that it has expanded our horizons. And connecting with the community and all that’s going on at the Hospital has had a tremendous effect on us.”

With so much in common, giving back to the same organization, even though they often work on different floors, is another extension of their long and happy life.

“We’ve been married for 60 years, and have done a lot of things together,” Alan says. “We’ve worked together, raised children together, had fun together… we decided jointly that White Plains Hospital was a good place to be. We fit in.”

And just ask Alan, Suzanne or anyone who volunteers at the Hospital and they’ll tell you that traversing the multiple floors and visiting patient rooms is a great way to rack up those daily steps, and keep your heart healthy and weight in check.

Are you ready to sign up? Learn more about volunteering at White Plains Hospital or call (914) 681-1225 and join us!