The Case of the Working Caregiver

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit with an advocate for the working caregiver. You know them, they are the people who are working yet still manage elder care responsibilities; the people who put careers on hold (or at risk); the people who save the government billions of dollars in unreimbursed care expenses; people like me..

The very next day the Idaho Statesman published an article about this topic. (http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/02/19/2457638/caught-in-the-parent-care-trap.html). Later that week a report was published about the economic burden faced by America’s family caregivers (http://www.parkinsonsaction.org/news/14-4-billion-economic-burden-of-parkinson-s-disease-takes-toll-on-families). Coincidence or evidence of an epidemic?

The case of the working caregiver is the other, often hidden, side of diseases like Parkinson’s. I advocate for protected NIH funding for biomedical research because we desperately need a cure and even a one year delay in research can add 15 years for a cure to reach the hands of patients. I advocate for better access to medical care to the Veterans we made promises to, who have developed diseases like Parkinson’s due to chemical exposure and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). I advocate for Congress to protect these things in the face of looming sequester, all without any consideration to the costs of the working caregivers, the people like me.

There are no easy answers facing Congress. I’ve seen the charts and graphs that spell out the future debt for Medicare and other programs. What those charts leave out is the debt burden currently being paid by working caregivers. The smart decision is to invest in research for cures and prevention now, and spare future generations the burden of ever knowing what it means to be a working caregiver at all.

TRLB

Points of intersection

I am blessed with an amazing career at a company I love, a supportive family I get to see and take care of every day, and an amazing network of colleagues, friends, family and fellow Parkinson’s advocates.

A few years ago when I first fell into the role of working family caregiver and Parkinson’s advocate, I was advised by several people to keep it on the down low so that it wouldn’t interfere with my career aspirations.  (This is the same philosophy that pushes many people to create two Facebook profiles, one for friends and family and one for customers and work people).  And at first I did try to keep them separate…and was miserable.  Maybe it’s because I have my hands full managing one of me, or maybe it’s because I’m a firm believer that WYSIWYG isn’t limited to computer speak, but that’s how thereallisabain was born.

My professional sales experience has helped me be a better advocate, although the process is very different (more on that in a future post). My very public advocacy work has put me in a position to help colleagues and customers as they find themselves facing Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.  And by never hiding the fact that I love being in sales for my title insurance and escrow company, many of the people I’ve met in the Parkinson’s community specifically request to close at my company when they buy, sell or refinance.

So by allowing the many facets of my life to freely intersect, everything flows together and forward.

TRLB

***Speaking of networks, I have to thank my dear friend Lisa Thorne for encouraging me to revive my blog.  Check out her blog Productivity Challenge 2013.