Did you know that one in five Americans is taking care of a loved one, often a parent who is stricken with a disease or simply nearing the end of their life? Put another way, more than 50 million people in the US are caregivers to aging parents.
I’d like to take you on a journey of self-discovery told through the voice of one caregiver whose aged father, suffering from liver failure, lives with her. Just imagine being awoken at four in the morning because your father got confused and thought you had missed his paracentesis appointment. Paracentesis is basically a procedure to remove fluid buildup in the abdomen.
That is a typical day in the life of Susan Van Klink, Chief Revenue Officer & Chief Diversity Officer at Grokker. If it weren’t for her boss and CEO, Lorna Borenstein, life would be much more complicated and stressful than it is. Because Lorna understands the value of supporting her team, Susan does not have to worry about how good a job she is doing. They have an agreement on modified hours and expectations. And, Susan’s team all know what she is living with.
On top of that open communication, Susan shares the vulnerability of her struggles, which paves the way for others on her team to share their mental health struggles, an important part of removing the stigma of mental health.
Just imagine what all that openness means for the entire organization.
Ever since Susan’s father was diagnosed with liver disease her life has completely been turned upside down. Every two weeks she takes her father to the paracentesis clinic. This includes dressing him, including his socks and shoes. For her father one silver lining of going to the clinic is his social life. Odd as it sounds, her father looks forward to going so he can hang out with his new friends.
He also enjoys driving himself to coffee with other friends a few times a week, on his good days.
Built into this life situation is support from Susan’s loving husband, who travels for work. Since Susan does not like leaving her father all alone, when both she and her husband have to travel, she also has to provide for someone to check in on her father daily.
Susan has tried every iteration of care and she has made this arrangement work for her.
If it weren’t for Lorna Borenstein at Grokker this lifestyle would not be possible at all. Lorna is walking her talk. Grokker provides a wellness platform that incorporates five aspects of well-being: physical, mental, financial, nutrition, and sleep.
With 4000 videos, 130 experts, and 90 programs, you can access well-being from anywhere on any device at any time.
The idea for Grokker was born when Lorna was on sabbatical with her family and could not find any high quality instructional videos in one place to manage her wellbeing. In 2012 she founded Grokker to satisfy that need.
One of the many life lessons that Susan shared with me is that she works to live, not lives to work. Many American organizations do not take this tack, but Susan says that is shifting, especially as the next generation is coming up. Gen Z are more focused on finding meaning in their work and seeking companies whose meaning aligns with their personal values.
During this era of The Great Resignation, it is easier to control one’s destiny by leaving companies whose values don’t line up with yours.
Another lesson Susan shared is the importance of self-care. We all know what self-care means, but many of us don’t do it. In this case, self-care is a lifesaver. Susan uses a little-known technique called tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT®.
Tapping, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine has been shown to reduce stress by lowering heart rate, reducing blood pressure and restoring the balance to your body’s energy.
According to Certified Tapping Practitioner, Master Trainer, and TedX speaker, Dr. Katie Nall, tapping is an easy to learn, non-invasive, self-administered technique to eliminate stress. The majority of her clients realize some immediate relief within each one-hour session, and they leave with a sense of lightness and control over their emotions.
Tapping starts with engaging specific meridians, thought of as areas of the body that energy flows through to eliminate negative emotions. These meridians can include: the heel of the hand, three locations around the eye, the area below the nose, the area below the lips, the collarbone, the underarm, and the top of the head. From seven to nine taps are delivered on each spot. Some scientists believe that it works because it stimulates the central nervous system and causes the body to release helpful chemicals.1
Finally, Susan knows the importance of taking time off. Taking breaks and vacations, while often difficult to achieve as a caregiver, is another important part of her self-care. The evidence is clear that taking breaks refreshes and rejuvenates. The value to the organization is a fresher, sharper workforce who are more creative and productive after a break or vacation.
Caregivers are one of the most important facets of the healthcare system because it depends on the family to pick up the slack. The toll caregiving takes is immeasurable but having an intuitive corporate culture which supports this important part of an employee’s life is critical.
Write to me to let me know how your organization supports your efforts to be a loving caregiver while maintaining your work performance.
1 “EFT Tapping: What Is It and Does It Work for Stress?” WebMD, Accessed December 17, 2021