The Club Sandwich Club

Most of us have heard of “The Sandwich Generation.” This refers to the phenomenon of people caught between generations, helping their children achieve maturity and independence while also having to assist their aging parents. The pull on the attention of these people, who often have demanding careers and businesses, can not be overstated.

For those who run businesses, the problem is compounded, because they often employ staff with similar issues. Those workers are often in the unfortunate position of having to take time to assist their own family members. Distracted by their outside responsibilities, they may be fearful of revealing their situation to their superiors, concerned that they might lose their position if the true nature of their obligations was known.

With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, and 70% of those aging people destined to experience a long term care event, the numbers of family caregivers will increase exponentially. So the impact of this trend on business and the economy will escalate.

If you have never been a family caregiver, it’s difficult for you to grasp the enormity of the task. Depending on the circumstances, the person giving care can be in deep distress and potential in danger. And it’s absolutely imperative that everyone becomes aware of the frightening potential of this approaching epidemic.

The Meat of the Sandwich

Let’s first look at the basic caregiving situation. In virtually every family, there is usually one person who takes care of everyone else. Usually, it’s “Mom.” But 40% of the time, it’s “Dad” (especially if there is no Mom or if Mom is the one who is sick). Typically, this person works, either full or part-time. There may be a crisis, like a fall, or a critical illness, that requires immediate intervention by the caregiver-in-waiting.

There’s also the “sneak attack” care scenario: aging parents start asking for “favors” from their adult children. They need help understanding something: an unusual piece of mail or threatening phone call; news from a medical provider; a change in service from an insurance provider. Then it gradually morphs into escort services, rides to therapy, picking up items from the grocery store or pharmacy, and before you know it, you have a full-time, unpaid job that eats your life.

It’s not uncommon for these caregivers of aging parents to also have children. The expectation for those with healthy kids is that they will grow up, graduate from school and become independent. That is not always the case. They may have difficulty finding work in their chosen profession, or take a job and leave it, only to return to the nest. Sadly, many develop substance abuse problems, adding another stressor to the mix.

These are just some of the typical situations vying for the attention of family caregivers. These people also tend to have careers and subordinates who work for them (who may also be family caregivers).

Adding Zing

So, for the “Sandwich Bosses,” the people who run companies or departments, what are some ideas for improving their lives? Here are some ideas:

  • Put yourself first. If you go down in flames, so does everyone else you care for or supervise.
  • Hire the right professionals to do the things you don’t know how to do, like wills and estate planning.
  • Learn to say “no” when the demands of others are becoming too much.
  • If it’s bad for you, it has to be just as bad, or worse, for your subordinates.
  • Create an environment where it’s safe for people to talk about their situation. No one should have to fear losing their job for having to care for loved ones.
  • Teamwork is essential: cross-train employees to cover for each other so business can continue with minimal interruption.
  • Remote work: allowing employees to work from home can go along way toward easing stress on family caregivers.
  • Identify resources: there are places people can go to solve a lot of their problems. Being able to provide guidance toward support services and establishing formal policies can be a huge help to everyone involved.

These are just a starting place. Caregiving is complex and different for every family. Understanding what you’re up against, practicing self-care, and supporting valued employees can keep you and your enterprise moving forward as the demands of a growing population of people in need encroaches on your productivity. By preparing for it now, you can meet (meat?) the challenges as they will undoubtedly be delivered at your doorstep.

Ep 58_Tracey

For more on this important topic, listen to author Tracey Lawrence speaking with Tiana Sanchez on “Like a Real Boss”.

Advertisements

Numbers Games

Statistics have always annoyed me. Depending on who is providing them and what the agenda is, numbers can be used in all kinds of unsavory ways to persuade people to do things that may not be in their best interest.

I’ve also learned that no matter how you present compelling data, you will not influence anyone to change their mind unless there’s a good story to illustrate exactly what the numbers mean.

Here are some numbers that I find troubling and I am going to attempt to show you WHY you should find them troubling too.

10,000 people are turning 65 every day in the USA, and that will keep happening through 2030.

That means 3.65 MILLION PEOPLE are becoming eligible for Medicare every year, and 70% of them will have a long term care event. Long term care events (incapacity that requires assistance from another person) are not covered by Medicare. And these sick people are likely to live into their 80s and longer with deteriorating health, escalating expenses, and requiring that they receive help from others to get through their days. Where will they get this help? Will you be a helper? Will you, yourself, require care?

Over 40 million people in the US are family caregivers, most of them working and/or running businesses.

What’s the problem there? Family caregivers rarely get paid for their services, wind up paying for many of their loved one’s needs, often suffering illnesses and stress without getting proper care themselves. Many of them are Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. A growing segment is Millennials, and they are not getting the support they need. Being younger, they tend to believe they are invincible and don’t ask for help until they are in crisis.

Approximately half of family caregivers of people with dementia die before the people they are caring for. (For spouses in that position, the number is 63%).

If that doesn’t give you a panic attack, consider this: if the primary caregiver of a person with dementia dies, what happens to that person who needs care? SOMEONE will have to step up and fill in. Will it be you? The state? No one? Are any of those scenarios even remotely acceptable to you? Me neither.

What can you do?

  1. Get educated. There are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, but you have to get moving BEFORE crisis strikes. Human beings don’t like to be proactive. They would rather deny that there could be a problem, and when they can no longer deny the truth, they will procrastinate on taking meaningful action. Finding out what needs to be done while you and those you care about are still healthy gives you leverage and choice.
  2. Be courageous. Initiate the tough talk BEFORE crisis strikes. (But back off when you get pushback and try again when things cool down. Don’t give up!).
  3. Team up. It’s easier to make meaningful progress with another grown up in your corner. Seek out people who are respected by those you are trying to persuade.

Three problems Three steps to start addressing them. Sounds easy, right? Spoiler alert: it’s not. But if you want a “cheat sheet,” ask for this awesome FREE eBook: “8 Topics You Must Discuss.” It will help you get started with those three items on the to-do list above.

Want a good story that illustrates why being proactive is a great idea? Read my book, “Dementia Sucks.”

And if you’d rather not do anything right now, know that you’re in the majority. And that’s fine. You could, conceivably, beat the odds. Or you could be another sad statistic.

The Myth of Retirement

Once upon a time, I believed what I saw on TV. When I heard the term “retirement,” it brought a most pleasant time of life to mind. I watched my parents get there. I was happy for them when they’d arrived. Having worked hard all of their lives, it was nice to see them living it up and enjoying themselves.

The myth of retirement looks something like this:

  1. You stop working
  2. Start spending money
  3. Spoil your kids and grandkids
  4. Travel
  5. Do all the things you dreamed of doing when you were working and couldn’t
  6. Die peacefully in your own bed
  7. Angels escort you to heaven; cue heavenly choir

Unfortunately, for most people, this is fantasy. If you’re lucky, and you managed to put some money away, then steps 1 through 5 are certainly a possibility. However, there’s a significant step that no one wants to consider before you get to 6 (and your step 6 may not be “peaceful” or “in your own bed,” either).

For the vast majority of us, there will be a period of 20 to 30 years of “post retirement.” This is that sad time when we’re no longer able to travel at will and do whatever we want, because we’re sick or disabled. We are seeing doctors more than our loved ones. The time and expense of these visits puts a strain on our assets and our energy reserves.

If this is bumming you out, I apologize, but, dear reader, you need to wake up. Very few people have the luxury of going to bed healthy and happy and simply not waking up.

So here’s a suggestion: read a book that will introduce you, gently, to some harsh realities. Sit with the feeling for a little while. Then take action. Review the 8 Topics (they’re in the book). And if you want help from there, ask for it. Don’t myth out.