By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer


Not sleeping. Not eating, not drinking water. Stressed.

These were the top things Marilyn Bice and the staff at Reba’s Ranch House observed happening with caregivers whose loved one was suddenly in the hospital. 

In researching ways to better care for caregivers, Marilyn made a startling discovery—three things that make human brains stop working: No sleep. Dehydration. Stress. 

The caregiver guests at the ranch house were faced not only with the emotional stress, but the physical inability to hear what doctors and nurses tried to tell them. They might be required to make hard decisions and literally lack the brain function to do it.

A guest room at the ranch house is the first step to remedying their condition. In the comfortable, private rooms with beds covered in handmade quilts, caregivers get peaceful sleep each night. 

The second step is making sure the caregiver has something to eat. In addition to the ranch house kitchen and meals provided by churches on a regular basis, a hutch is situated near the lobby door, loaded with a wide variety of snack options. There’s even fresh fruit at times, along with bags to pack with the snacks and bottled water. 

Marilyn calls these “hospital bags,” a small but brain-saving tote for caregivers who are facing a medical crisis.

The third step is reducing the mental stress of the caregiver.

“Nowadays, we know so much more that pertains to different aspects of mental health,” Marilyn says. “It’s just amazing that in three days, there are so many things that go through your mind of, ‘Who do I need to call, what do I need to do?’ It’s crazy what all happens.”

Exhausted and drained, caregivers often arrive late at night for their room at the ranch house. Marilyn encourages the staff to greet guests with a compassionate smile and ask how their patient is doing. Sometimes this opens up time for friend-like counseling, where the caregiver is able to talk through the situation. 

While staff doesn’t offer specific advice on making decisions, they ask questions like, “Do you think it’s time to call in another family member?”

They can also connect caregivers with a chaplain who can recommend further help, such as a therapist. 

“When they have someone they can go to in addition to their medical personnel or advisors, it gives them more confidence in the decisions they have to make,” Marilyn says.

As caregivers of the caregivers, Reba’s Ranch House will continue to expand on ways to care for the physical, emotional, and mental health of caregivers who seek refuge here.

You can join us by making a one-time or ongoing donation now.