Wellbeing and the Caregiver
June 28, 2017 / Corporate Wellness
One doesn’t normally think of an organization’s wellbeing programs when they think of a caregiver, but it’s one way that an organization can look at their employees holistically. This view provides employees in caregiver roles with the resources to make their personal lives easier, and help them become better equipped to focus at work during a difficult time.
The components of a wellbeing program which address the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual/social aspects of one’s wellbeing encompass everything a caregiver encounters during their caregiving tenure.
Over three years ago, my family began such a journey while dealing with my elderly mother who had suffered a mild stroke. Though the stroke was mild, it created a situation where her care became an additional responsibility for her children. This meant needing to take time away from work to find an appropriate place for mom to live, the added stress of monitoring her health, and ensuring that the staff at the assisted living facility were treating her with the care and respect we felt she deserved. Her finances were also now our responsibility, and with that, we faced an additional need to ensure that we’d be able to pay for the additional costs of assisted living.
And we also just had to “be” – be with our mom and spend even more time with her as her health continued to slowly decline. This had a big impact on our own families and often required that we rearrange or cancel other plans. In other words, it was a life adjustment that put a burden on each of us as we struggled with how to live in this new reality.
The stress of all of this took a toll on us, the caregivers. It drained us physically because her needs typically came before our own, and many times we would become run down. This new level of stress manifested itself in physical ways which meant our natural defenses were down and we were more susceptible to illness. Also, we worried about having the right resources, where to go for help, and how we would be able to manage this new and complete role reversal.
Having resources available to us through our organizations helped us address the financial questions we had, offered us programs to relieve our own stress, and provided employee resource groups where we could find common ground with others in these same situations. This all helped with our own wellbeing. Luckily the camaraderie and compassion of our coworkers and leaders helped us along this journey.
Over these past 3 and a half years, my mother’s condition got worse. There was an added burden of watching (sometimes helplessly) as she struggled with decreasing mobility and increasing dementia. These are hard things for anyone to have to watch, but for family members it can be very challenging. Ensuring that my emotional wellbeing was tended to was paramount during this time. There are a lot of programs that help alleviate or reduce some of the stress of similar situations: EAPs, stress reduction options such as yoga and massages, and PTO when needed all contributed to our wellbeing. It was always rewarding to find that I could turn to my employer in my time of need and find programs that helped me to be my best self – both for my mother and for my employer.
My mother passed peacefully last month and her journey through these struggles are over. Ours will continue for a while as we finalize the details of her estate and work through our grief. And as we do, it is comforting to know that we have our organizations that helped us all along the way by being there for our own wellbeing.
For information on building emotional agility for similar situations, join Dr. Susan David, Ph.D. on Thursday, June 29th at 2 PMEDT. Dr. David, one of the world’s leading management thinkers and an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist will discuss:
- – How getting hooked by thoughts, emotions and stories stops us, and our organizations, from thriving
– Why emotional agility is a critical skill-set for individuals, teams and organizations
– Essential steps to cultivate emotional agility
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