(c) Carolyn P Hartley 

“I am so lucky to have had the privilege of being a caregiver.”

I was on the phone with my sister-in-law, Eileen, thanking her again for her faithfulness to my brother, her husband, while he battled pancreatic cancer. “I want to send you The Caregiver’s Toolbox I said, since I dedicated it to you and Stan” (another caregiver in my family who took care of my sister.) Read about them at http://amzn.to/1r7V6wS. 

“No one ever wants this job, it’s handed to you. You step up, because it’s what you do,” she told me, then turned silent. They were newly weds when he was diagnosed. Both had careers in healthcare, so it seemed only natural to honeymoon at Sloan Kettering. Twelve years after my brother passed away, she is still in love with him. “It was such an honor to have been his care partner,” she said. 

She and I reminisced a bit about his nearly 250 closest friends always wanting to visit him; how she turned his bedroom into a sports bar loaded with videos, lounge chairs, and the ever present morphine pump that tethered him to periodic freedom from pain.

He was more than a year into his battle, she was still immersed in her work as a critical care nurse in a large hospital system.  She would take an hour off three days a week, ensure the chemotherapy mix  was indeed the one the oncologist ordered, make sure he was comfortable in his infusion chair, then dash back to the hospital to care for patients. Seven hours later, she would bring him home and fold him in blankets.  For months, this dash continued until her employer told her to pick: keep working or find someone else to care for your dying husband. “You forget those moments because it’s just not something to hold on to. So, you go on and get another job.”

With as much talk about human resource’s focus on helping 34% of the employee population who are caregivers, it’s a shame most of us still are in hiding, afraid supervisors will call us out for being less than dedicated. Those same caregivers will give up promotions, move to part-time hours, or leave the workforce entirely. 

The average cost to replace an employee today is 150% of the employee’s annual salary. The hospital system who lost one of its best clinicians couldn’t part with one hour of her time three times a week. Ultimately they spent $187,500 to find a nurse practitioner to replace her.

I also have been a caregiver. Three times as the secondary caregiver, once as the primary, and all of them long distance. Each time I got in the plane (and oh how many times that happened), I reminded myself, “you may lose a client over this, but you will never regret the time you spent with your brother <sister> <father> <mother>.

I don’t regret spending time with family. I don’t regret losing a client who couldn’t get over my putting them second behind a dying loved one. (Who would do that, you say? Look around.) If you are a working caregiver, call someone you trust in the benefits department and ask for a plan to help stay employed, but also take care of your loved one. I am so blessed to be working with employers that design programs for people like you.

If you know a caregiver, help them. Be1, Help1. If this role has been handed to you, embrace it, but don’t do it alone. Get others to help you. Get The Caregiver’s Toolbox. It was written just for you. And it was also written for your employer. 



#CarolynPHartley, #Be1Help1, #CaregiversBistro, #CaregiversToolbox


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