For close to eight years, Leeza’s Place at Memorial Hospital Pembroke has served as a support and resource center for all types of family caregivers who are dealing with any chronic or progressive illness. Although its mission will continue, the center now bears a new name – Leeza’s Care Connection.
“The name change more clearly defines what we do for the caregivers we serve,” said Bonnie Bonomo, program director of Leeza’s Care Connection. “We learned over the years of working with family caregivers that they feel best when connected to each other and to support services, resources and their own strength of spirit. Our unique programming helps caregivers gain self-confidence and learn the skills needed to tackle their new life of change, allowing them to feel like, ‘I can do it’.”
Leeza’s Care Connection, located on the campus of Memorial Hospital Pembroke, is a safe place for caregivers to share experiences and be heard, but more than that, it is a place where family caregivers go to ask questions, get answers, find resources and get support.
“It is a place that teaches caregivers to take their own oxygen first, and hold onto themselves while caring for someone they love,” Bonomo explains. “We believe caregivers often times just need to summon their strength and call on the courage that they already have within them to get through this journey.”
The center, the only one of its kind in Broward County, offers 16 support groups and over 30 programs every month. Programs include everything from educational lectures and trainings, teaching coping strategies, self-care and wellness to Reiki Healing Energy, laughter yoga and drumming circles to reduce stress. One-on-one family meetings are offered to help families assess and navigate resources in the community. Scrapbooking and video-making help families preserve memories. The center receives over 500 visits a month from caregivers all over Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Volunteers and Free Programs
Guest lecturers, class instructors and all program materials provided at Leeza’s Care Connection are donated. All services and programs are free of charge and funded by Memorial Healthcare System and private donations.
“Memorial understands how vital it is to nourish the caregiver in this journey,” said Bonomo, a former caregiver herself and the paid staff member at the center.
Bonomo offers to meet with caregivers one on one to put together a personalized plan of action for them and their families. All the others helping out are volunteers, and all are former caregivers. Volunteers are called HUG Ambassadors. HUG stands for “Help U Grow.”
One of the HUG Ambassadors is Nat Gross, an 80-year-old man whose wife suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He understands how important it is to have someone to reach out to when feeling frustrated and alone.
“I tell people not to argue with their loved ones because it’s not going to help,” said Gross, who has logged 10,300 volunteer hours at Leeza’s Care Connection and was named Broward County Service Volunteer of the Year. “I wish someone had been there to tell me that.”
Peter Hoffman, a 62-year-old caregiver and support group facilitator, was a caregiver to both his parents and his wife. He said the encouragement, hope and support caregivers receive at Leeza’s makes all the difference in the world.
“At one point in my journey, I thought I would go insane with the stress of taking care of three loved ones,” Hoffman said. “I learned it’s important to set boundaries. I can relate to the people I meet who come to Leeza’s Care Connection because I’ve been there.”
Leeza’s Care Connection at Memorial Hospital Pembroke is located at 2261 North University Drive #103, Pembroke Pines, Florida 33024. For more information, visit www.leezascareconnection.org or call 954-883-7243.
About Leeza Gibbons
Leeza Gibbons, a nationally recognized TV news journalist, author and entrepreneur created The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation in 2002 as a promise to her mother to “tell her story and make it count” after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Leeza’s Place, now known as Leeza’s Care Connection, is the signature program of The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation opening its first doors in 2003. It is what Leeza “wished we had when we were going through this journey”.
About Memorial Hospital Pembroke
Memorial Hospital Pembroke in Pembroke Pines, Fla., is part of Memorial Healthcare System, the second-largest public healthcare system in the nation. It offers a wide scope of services, including the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine, Sleep Study Program, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Program, Leeza’s Care Connection, and a program for Canadian visitors, along with outpatient services, diagnostic services and emergency care. For more information, visit www.memorialpembroke.com.
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