We live in uncertain times. Are we still in a pandemic? Is hybrid or remote work here to stay? These are only a couple of questions occupying our thoughts. As a result, we haven't had time to reflect on what the pandemic has taught us. Well, today is a great day to start. I'll even kick off the process for us. :-)
Uncertainty seems to be the norm
There are different levels of uncertainty. The earlier part of the pandemic in 2020 gave me flashbacks of the only other time I was at a complete loss in my life (major uncertainty).
I became my mother's caregiver at the age of 21 and I didn't stop until she passed away in June of 2019. You'd think I'd have it in hand after the first few years of caregiving, but that isn't the nature of illness or caregiving. I worked full-time throughout this time. I had no map outlining what I needed to know or any idea what to expect. And everything seemed out of my control. Many people could not or did not want to understand what I was juggling.
I’m not alone in the world of family caregiving. According to AARP, 53 million Americans call themselves family caregivers. Many more of us are caregivers, but we may not think of ourselves in that way. And, if we think of Covid's impact, that number has increased as people of all ages find themselves in the caregiving role for the first time.
On September 6th, NPR shared an international study stating from January 2020 to May 2022 nearly 8 million children aged 18 and under lost a parent or primary caregiver. The number is higher when grandparents are included. Caregiving continues to be a journey filled with uncertainty.
While all this change makes our heads spin, we must remember our power
Although we live in a perpetual state of uncertainty, we aren’t completely powerless. Preparation is an accessible and overlooked form of self-care. We might not think of it when it comes to the health of our grandparents, parents, and even ourselves, but the reality is it’s one of our greatest untapped resources.
As a result of managing my mother’s care, I’ve taken care of all the medical and legal paperwork for my husband and I. Doing takes a weight off our shoulders. You can start the process by completing health proxy paperwork and additional estate paperwork. Trust me, it is easier to have these forms completed when everyone is healthy.
The Great Resignation is still underway. Many are making career decisions based on flexibility to care for loved ones. We must find roles that fulfill, challenge, and offer us an environment that promotes employee well-being. This is the time to ask yourself what you need and act upon it. You can be certain there are companies looking for your skills and expertise. Change is good. A new report states, “Those who changed jobs got a median raise of 16.1%. That’s nearly double the median change in yearly pay for those who stayed in their jobs: 7.6%.”
We’re all juggling a few more things than we might like, but . . .
Preparation in the face of uncertainty is not only a possibility, but preparation is also a must for life today. This is the time for action. Here are a few suggestions for getting started.
- Initiate what could be hard conversations about health with your parents, grandparents, and anyone else you care about. These discussions might seem difficult, but they remove some of the complexity that might be encountered later down the road.
- Review your employee benefits. What provisions are available if you must take time to care for a loved one? What happens if you fall ill? Are there employee resources groups to support you? If not, what does it take to start one? And, if you’re an employer, take an audit of the benefits and support you have for employees. This is a good time to partner with providers to offer benefits that meet today’s needs.
- If you’re negotiating a job offer, be open to other perks outside of your salary.
There has never been a better opportunity to design your ideal working conditions than today. This doesn’t apply to all jobs or all industries, but there are organizations that offer flex time, home office expenses, remote work and more. Take stock of what you need and ask.
- Keep your emergency finances top of mind. As our economy bounces between stable and rocky, it is difficult for many to think about saving or setting aside money. However, starting small is a step forward. Because we don’t know what awaits us, developing the habit of filling our emergency accounts is a positive step forward. And employers can help by featuring benefits that support proactive planning for now and the future through partnerships with 401K and financial providers.
I’m passionate about changing the narrative for family caregivers of seniors. If you’d like to chat, please reach out to me [email protected].