The cost of caring

This week I’m looking after my dad. He’s 80 and about 18 months ago was diagnosed with a rapidly progressive type of dementia. He still knows who we all are, but he has lost a lot of his short-term memory. Like where he is, what the date is, what we’re about to do, what we have already done. Of most concern to him at the moment is the whereabouts of my mum. He’s fully dependant on her and knows that his future lies in her hands. He experiences the frustration of knowing that he is losing his memory and he lives with the knowledge that his motor skills are badly affected that another fall is matter of when, not if.

The reason he is with me is this week is because my mum needs to go to a specialist appointment in a different city to get some medical test. She has to take the 8 hour trip to get there, have the tests, recover and then collect my dad and continue her journey home the next day. It’s a lot to ask of a 78-year-old full time carer. But fortunately, she is not alone. She has me and have I the flexibility in my work schedule to be able to able to help her. She has my oldest sister who has taken time off work to stay with her while she undertakes and recovers from her medical tests. She has my other sister who is a nurse and who can help her navigate her way around the complex and ever-changing aged care system. She also has my brother who is always on hand to help where he can.

And yet with all this support it’s still hard. She can’t go into the bank and get a statement for example so she can confidently manage their household finances – banks don’t do that anymore. She can no longer claim on her health insurance because it’s all online, and she’s locked herself out and can’t find a number to call to get assistance. She can’t arrange a single night’s respite care in the private retirement village they live in because it’s only offered in two-week blocks. And, despite her best efforts to follow the rules and gain an exemption to buy a small companion dog for my dad, which was recommended by his doctor, it was only resolved when my sister who’s a lawyer got involved. And on top of all of this she is mentally and physically exhausted.

So why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because this is the world we live in. One where it is hard for those who are doing the most important work – looking after our loved ones - to get ahead or even just stay on top of things. Our obsession with increasing productivity, getting value for shareholders and automating to reduce costs comes at a cost. A very real and human cost. And my mum is one of the many faces of this cost. Imagine the millions of carers in our communities that don’t have the same support network that my mum does who are trying to navigate their way around this (and let’s not discount the further compounding of these issues as a result of the corona virus).

But also imagine if someone (or some-many) said had spoken up at some time and thought of their parents or their grandparents (who didn’t grow up with computers) and realised we needed more flexibility in our banking and our online claim systems. That instead of creating a system that forced everyone to go online so they could make savings, that some of these savings where used to empower their frontline staff to assist people who struggled. Or imagine if someone (or some-many) developed the respite policy for residents or even the pet policy at my parents retirement village through the lens of prioritising residents care rather than the cost of administrative overheads.

That someone (or some-many) could be you. But that’s a hard ask. I know from my own working experience how easy it is to get caught up in the possibilities of the stats, the “norm” and the bell curve. To get drawn into a competitive culture that encourages innovation via cost cutting, tight budgets and stretch targets.

But when you live with intention, know your values and lead from your heart you have a sense of purpose that gives you the courage to speak up even when you know you will be shut down. You have a deep knowing that even though you haven’t been heard there is the possibility that one person who was watching and listening has shifted ever so slightly. Or that sometime in the future someone will hear what you have to say for the second, third or fourth time and this time it will stick. Or that someone who was listening and observing did hear you but didn’t have the authority to speak up and, in that moment, made a decision that when they reached the position of authority that like you they wanted to lead from the heart. And this is what leadership is about. In business and in life.

If you want to live with more intention and live a life aligned to your values and your purpose then check out my Life.Done By Design course opening in September and hop onto the waitlist. I have a special never to be repeated offer for this beta version.

PS If you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious given the multiple balls you are juggling and would like a few techniques you can use anywhere, anytime to return to yourself then grab a copy of my free resource outlining five different things you can do in five minutes or less.

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