Programs designed for life’s spectrum open to whole community

By Alison Rooney

Inpatient, outpatient, critical care, rehabilitation, the vocabulary of hospitals can be tricky to navigate. So can what that vocabulary pertains to, whether it be a joyous event such as the birth of a newborn, or the opposite, a diagnosis of an unfamiliar, frightening disease.

Regardless of the topic, there is usually a comfort in traveling these roads with others on them too, and that’s the terrain of support groups and workshops, an increasing sideline of hospitals across the country, including Cortlandt Manor’s Hudson Valley Hospital Center (HVHC).

Each month, the HVHC calendar listings detail numerous classes, groups and workshops, some on a series basis, a few in a one-day session format, and many free of charge. A quick look at the current calendar yielded details on one-session programs on a diverse range of topics including colorectal health, Alzheimer’s disease, and living with celiac disease, to name a few.

A cholesterol check, at last year's Senior Health Fair. 
A cholesterol check, at last year’s Senior Health Fair.

“We try to be responsive to people in the community in establishing and running these groups … It’s part of our mission to serve the community,” noted Victoria Hochman, HVHC’s director of marketing. She added: “There is an ebb and flow, depending on demand, and the availability of qualified instructors … We also work with other, established groups, like Gilda’s Club and Support Connection (whose services were described fully in a story Aug. 28, 2013), trying to bring them together with us to best support the community, each doing what’s best for them to do. We’re glad to have them.”

If the hospital isn’t offering a particular support group, it finds and refers those who contact them to pertinent nearby groups. HVHC’s groups are publicized on their website, through advertising and through their Healthy Living magazine sent out to an extensive mailing list in nearby communities, including Philipstown.

Healthy living

Under the banner of health and wellness, the HVHC offers monthly early-evening seminars related to making comprehensive changes in eating and lifestyle habits, working toward goals of weight loss and better nutrition. An afternoon monthly group is targeted specifically at diabetes support.

There is a free diabetes support group that meets the first Tuesday of every month — the next session is Jan. 6. The hospital also offers community CPR training classes every other month, on Saturdays; these do have a fee.

Teaching Kitchen

A new initiative, the Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen, opened last July at the Dempsey House, a building on the hospital’s grounds; a volunteer-run organic garden, supervised by master gardener Laura Perkins of Stone Barns, now in its third year, is nearby. The Teaching Kitchen’s goal is to teach children and adults how to prepare healthy, and tasty, meals for themselves, reducing sugar and fat in their diets.

The Chef Peter X. Kelley Teaching Kitchen hosts many healthy cooking classes at Hudson Valley Hospital Center. 
The Chef Peter X. Kelley Teaching Kitchen hosts many healthy cooking classes at Hudson Valley Hospital Center.

Open to all, the classes change monthly and include topics like homemade pizza recipes, “simply seafood,” vegan cooking, cooking with a Mediterranean diet, baby-friendly first foods and couples’ cooking classes. Additionally, there are “heart healthy” classes designed specifically for physician-referred adults, designed for those with specific health issues.

Kids’ classes utilize the garden with kids able to pull out vegetables from the earth and head right on over to the kitchen and cook them, in a state-of-the-art facility. There is a small fee for the adult classes. The participants in the children’s classes include both those “at risk,” referred by local pediatricians, and any other interested kids; HVHC is currently developing programs with nearby schools as well.

Cancer treatment support

For those with a cancer diagnosis, and family members, there are a number of support programs. Emotional support to men and women newly diagnosed is the aim of the Living with Cancer Support Group, a program of Gilda’s Club Westchester. This group meets twice monthly and is designed as a complement to medical care, with an opportunity for men and women with any cancer diagnosis to share their emotions and experiences.

A group designed specifically for those with breast cancer, pertaining to all stages, from diagnosis to post-treatment, led by a peer counselor — a trained volunteer who is a breast cancer survivor — meets the third Monday of each month, as does a Look Good … Feel Better American Cancer Society–affiliated program offering professional wig fittings and makeup applications.

For caregivers, a Leave the Light On Foundation program, founded by a former HVHC employee who cared for an elderly parent, provides resources and opportunities for celebrating and pampering those taking care of loved ones with cancer, knowing that people cannot be effective caregivers if they’re constantly burned out. This meets on Saturday mornings, once a month.

Individual and family support, either in person or by phone, is available through the hospital’s social work department. Other referrals can also be made.

All of these, as well as a new lymphedema support group for men and women co-facilitated by a Gilda’s Club Westchester licensed clinical social worker and an HVHC certified lymphedema physical or occupational therapist, and a cancer support book group, are free programs.

To pre-register, call Patti Pelican, HVHC’s community relations coordinator, at 914-734-3557. Pelican emphasizes that all of these groups are open not just to HVHC patients, but to anyone, perhaps someone who is receiving cancer treatments in New York City, who would like a more local support group.

Baby care

Cold Spring’s Linda LeMon, a registered nurse member of the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants, heads up most of HVHC’s “All About Baby!” classes and workshops. These include “Birthing with Confidence” one-day childbirth classes, which meet monthly (there is a fee for these), and free, monthly “Breastfeeding With Certainty” sessions, as well as a twice-monthly breastfeeding support group.

Moms and babies meet up at the breastfeeding support group. 
Moms and babies meet up at the breastfeeding support group.

There are also workshops relating to tips for grandparents on basic baby care and safety skills; “New Baby in the House” sibling classes, and others.

In addition, Katherine Whiteside, a certified doula (providing mothers with support before, during and after childbirth), offers HVHC-affiliated programs at Garrison’s Desmond-Fish Library. The hospital also operates a free “warm line” call-in number for help with breastfeeding. This is available to any new mother — not just those who have given birth at HVHC.

Health fairs and speakers

Along with all of these groups and workshops, HVHC also hosts an annual Healthy Heart Fair; the 2015 edition will take place on Feb. 11, during National Heart Month, and will feature different educational “stations,” including one on methods to quit smoking, in the lobby.

Another event, the Silver Lining Healthy Aging Fair, held in October, is more specifically geared toward what is needed to keep older adults healthy within the hospital and other care facilities — things like proper hydration, the mobility program, which gets patients out of bed and walking around, and medication management.

A cholesterol check, given at last year's Senior Health Fair. 
A cholesterol check, given at last year’s Senior Health Fair.

For groups and others who would prefer a more targeted approach and who might not be able to come to the hospital, HVHC operates a Speakers Bureau, a free resource for local civic groups, service clubs and community organizations to have an expert come to talk about a particular topic. These can range from understanding diagnostic imaging and managing seasonal allergies to “aging eyes” and hand therapy — virtually any topic. Organizations are asked to place a request about four to six weeks prior to the desired date.

For more information on this and all of the HVHC’s programs, call the marketing office at 914-734-3557, or view the full calendar and sign up online at Most classes take place at HVHC, which is located at 1980 Crompond Road in Cortlandt Manor.

Photos courtesy of HVHC

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rooney was the arts editor for The Current since its founding in 2010 through April 2024. A playwright, she has lived in Cold Spring since 1999. She is a graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in history. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: Arts