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Another Reason to be Thankful: Honoring Caregivers

Pay back

It seems only fitting that as we celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday that we should also pay gratitude this month for the millions of Americans who serve as caregivers. Most of us do not know that November is National Family Caregivers Month

The Value of Care

For those for whom they provide care, these 90 million Americans are a life line. In dollar figures, these unsung heroes provide $450 billion worth of care, one of the largest segments of our health care system.

This figure, accounts for a dollar value on every meal prepared, every call made to an insurance company and every time a caregiver helped an older adult bathe or dress, is nearly as much as the government spent on Medicare in 2009 and nearly four times what Medicaid itself paid for long-term care services. It’s an estimate that explains why caregivers are so overwhelmed and in dire need of support, says Lynn Feinberg, senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute.

“It’s difficult to find paid help to supplement the care family provides at home,” Feinberg says. “There’s a shortage of quality home care aides; with the economic downturn, people are having a harder time paying for the extra care; and public programs are shrinking — many states now have waiting lists.”  AARP Public Policy Institute 

The Dollar Cost of Care

“We have to recognize that in the United States, caregiving comes at a cost. We need to provide better support to families in their caregiving roles. Because otherwise, our whole long-term care and health care systems will almost collapse.” AARP Public Policy Institute.`

Significant findings include:

  • People who take care of others are devoting nearly 20 hours per week on average to caregiving duties, often while still working a full-time job.
  • Caregiving costs have increased 20 percent over the last estimate of $375 million two years ago.
  • Caregivers provide 1.4 billion trips per year for older adults who no longer drive.
  • Caregivers are using their own personal savings — or diverting money for their own health care needs — to help cover the $5,000 annual average out-of-pocket cost for caregiving.
  • Caregivers are also leaving the workforce earlier than they would, losing an average of $115,900 in wages, $137,980 in Social Security benefits and $50,000 in pension benefits.

The Health Cost of Care

Many caregivers fail to consider their own health needs and are less likely to practice preventative health measures.  The burden of caregiving can be physically demanding.  Caregivers frequently report:

  • sleep deprivation
  • poor eating habits
  • failure to exercise
  • failure to stay in bed when ill
  • postponement of or failure to make medical appointments
  • higher incidence of alcohol abuse
  • tobacco use
  • use of drugs

Even though caregiving for a family member can be rewarding and demonstrates love and commitment, it often introduces added physical and emotion stress and can be burdensome financially. 

Alarming studies have shown that clinical depression among family caregivers can be as high as 46-59 percent.

Poor self-care behaviors not only take an emotional toll, many times the physical manifestations can be life altering.  Care giving as an increased risk chronic health conditions such as:

  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • back injuries
  • diminished immune response
  • obesity

Taking one for the team

The majority of family caregivers have assume this role willing but approximately forty-four percent report that they did feel that they had a choice in taking on their caregiving responsibilities  So while the rest of us are getting on with our lives these folks watch enviously from the sidelines.  For the most part caregiving is a temporary situation over 31% of caregivers have been in their roles five years or longer.

Thanking the caregiver:  a random act of kindness

As we end the month of Thanksgiving, let’s not forget to remember these 90 million caregivers, a force for good and compassion among us.  Regrettably, 50% of caregivers report that they receive no unpaid help from friends or family.  So why not make an effort to show appreciation for these unsung heroes by extending compassion and support with a random act of kindness. 

Valerie Sobel recently suggested five in the Huffington Post:

  1. Send a card of appreciation or a bouquet of flowers to brighten up a family caregiver’s day.
  2. Help a caregiver decorate their home for the holidays or offer to address envelopes for their holiday cards.
  3. Offer comic relief! Purchase tickets to a local comedy club, give the caregiver your favorite funny movie to view, or provide them an amusing audio book to listen to while doing their caregiving activities.
  4. Offer to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for a caregiving family in your community, so that they can just relax and enjoy the holiday.
  5. Encourage local businesses to offer a free service from family caregivers through the month of November. 

To that list I would add several of my own:

  • Make a simple visit.
  • Take the time to express you acknowledgement of their service.
  • Take the family caroling to their home.
  • When you see the caregiver and his loved one, make an effort to involve the loved one in the conversation.
  • Pick up the tab when you see the caregiver and their loved one at a restaurant.

So make someone’s day!   Not only will you make the caregivers day, but I guarantee that you will feel darn good yourself. 

My caregiving journey has gone from a task that I was doing to a source of joy and fulfillment.  Find out how you can change your caregiving experience by contacting me.   Let me inspire you! 

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Big Dreams Have Their Own Rewards

Mt. Rainier

Big Dreams

I love the quote by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia: “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” President Sirleaf is the classic example of someone who dares to dream big. She has been the president of Liberia since 2006, the first women elected as a head of state in Africa. Initially President Sirleaf’s life did not seem marked for this achievement. She married at the age of 17, had four children and divorced her abusive husband at age 23. After her divorce, President Sirleaf came to the United States and later, received a Master’s Degree from Harvard.  Her life is an inspiration to dream big.

Mt. Rainier

My own big dream began by chance in 2014.  A patient came into the dental office where I work.  When I asked him what he did for a living he told me that he was a guide for Rainier Mountaineering, Incorporated, (RMI).  I was curious so I asked if climbing Mt. Rainier was something someone my age could do.  I have lived in the shadow of Mt. Rainier for years, but I had never given serious consideration to the thought of climbing the mountain.  Now my interest peaked.  I tossed the idea around for a year and then in 2016, I decided to give it a try.  I trained really hard.  I had no experience in climbing and it had been years since I had done any serious hiking.  The short story is that I did not accomplish my goal to reach the summit. But, I did come off the mountain energized, more determined than ever to live my dream.  

So as 2017 rolled around, I began training for my second attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier.  I generally hit the gym five days a week. I started to train my legs not one day a week but three.  By the beginning of summer, I was running at least 20 miles a week.  I hiked almost every weekend in the Columbia River Gorge.  A friend helped me complete the climb of Mt. Adams, the second highest peak in Washington.  In August, I began intensively training for my Mt. Rainer climb.  When August rolled around, I felt confident and ready to live my dream.  But once again I fell short.  Only this time, I came away from the experience feeling defeated and discouraged.  I had invested the time and money only to walk away empty handed.  But, did I?

Big dreams have their own rewards!

After further reflection upon my experience, I came away with a different perspective and a new appreciation for the experience.  Seeking your dreams can be a little like going on vacation. Many times the anticipation is almost as much fun as the vacation itself.  I, for one, love the discipline of preparing physically for a challenge.  

While training is hard, in and of its self, it is a rewarding experience as you see the physical changes and increased fitness level.  I realized that I had lived for almost 40 years only an hour’s drive from the Columbia Gorge, one of the world’s most amazing hiking area and had not hiked one time.  Because I was training from Mt. Rainier, I hiked seven times in the gorge and saw countless vistas and waterfalls. The Larch Mountain hike, which begins at the base of Multnomah Falls at the historic Multnomah Lodge climbs 4,000 feet over 7 miles, passing several stunning waterfalls.  The scenery in the Columbia River Gorge is spectacular. Years ago, I had attempted to climb Mt. Adams. This summer, in my training for the Mt. Rainier climb, I tried again and reached my goal.  I had one of the best summers in my life, in spite of not seeing the summit of Mt. Rainier.

Recently, as I read about the devastation of the Eagle Creek Fire and its potential effects on the hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge, I can’t help be feel especially grateful for the summer of ’17.  I am reminded of the words of Lori Deschene, “Life can still be beautiful, meaningful, fun, and fulfilling even if things don’t turn out the way you planned.”  Perhaps the lesson is that in the process of dreaming big, we will create rich and rewarding lives.  

Do you want to help motivating your team to “dream big?”  Contact me!  “Let me inspire you!”

 

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Excellence

In April of 2008 I achieved an unexpected milestone in my life when I received my MBA from George Fox University.   Two years prior when I enrolled my friends and colleagues thought that I had lost my mind.  What in the world did I expect to gain from getting an MBA at that late stage of my life?  Enrolling in a graduate degree program turned out to be a great way to transition into this phase of my life. As it turned out I not only received a stellar educational experience but I also felt rejuvenated by the process. I was in the company of students half my age at the beginning of their careers as I was transition out of my first career. My perspectives though different were always welcome and respected. As it turned out I was richly rewarded by following my own advice, make the choice, cross the wake, live your dreams!

The faculty and staff at George Fox typify the description of excellence that I found very early in my dental career that impacted me throughout my practice as I pursued “excellence” in my delivery of patient care and managed my business. How fortunate I was to have found O’Connor early in my career.
“Pursuit of excellence is an attitude…it involves wisdom and sound judgment…it is a lifetime, career-long commitment…it is a way of life…it is doing the job right the first time, every time. It is inner-directed, not the result of external pressure, it is our own self-worth – who we are and the pride and satisfaction that comes from being the right kind of person, not just in doing the right things.” James J. O’Connor

Let me help your group make the choice, cross the wake and live their dreams.

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Winning the Race

Leadership can be a lonely road. Many times we get discouraged when the results aren’t as timely or notable as we had hoped. But most of us will be remember for how we ran not for winning the race.  True leaders continue to run long after less dedicated runner fade and quit.  And many times  the winner of the race will not necessarily be the one who crosses the finish line first.

John Stephen Akhwari enters the stadium
John Stephen Akhwari

I recall one such winner from the Mexico City Olympic Summer Games of 1968. Out of the cold darkness he came.  John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania entered at the far end of the stadium, pain hobbling his every step, his leg bloody and bandaged. The winner of the marathon had been declared over an hour earlier. Only a few spectators remained. But the lone runner pressed on.

While competing in the marathon in Mexico City, Akhwari cramped up due to the high altitude of the city. He had not trained at such an altitude back in his country. At the 19 kilometer point during the 42 km race, there was jockeying for position between some runners and he was hit. He fell badly wounding his knee and dislocated that joint plus his shoulder hit hard against the pavement. He however continued running,

He finishing last among the 57 competitors who completed the race (75 had started). The winner of the marathon, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia, finished in 2:20:26. Akhwari finished in 3:25:27.   When he entered the stadium only a few thousand people remained.   A television crew was sent out from the medal ceremony when word was received that there was one more runner about to finish.

As he crossed the finish line, the small crowd roared out its appreciation. Afterward, a reporter asked the runner why he had not retired from the race, since he had no chance of winning. He seemed confused by the question. Finally, he answered: “My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish.”

Winning the race…………..

In my mind Akhawri is a winner.   Many times winning doesn’t mean crossing the finish line first by having the tenacity to finish in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds.  Winning at the leadership challenge is never easy.  While the end results of our leadership challenges may seem unremarkable there is a certain satisfaction that comes from completing plans. Little did that lonely run ever envision that forty years later his story would be retold.  So it is with our efforts.  We cannot know what long term effects they will have on those around us.  Let me inspire your team at your next staff meeting or conference.

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Use Your Keys

Keys are wonderful tools. We use them daily to unlock doors, start cars and figuratively speaking, to unlock opportunities.

Several years ago while vacationing in Orlando, I was returning to the condo after running some errands.  I had several items that I needed to take back to the room. Rather than make two trips, I grabbed them all.  My hands were full.  I still had the rental car keys and key fob in my hands as I juggled my cargo.  I boarded the elevator and as I went to push the button, I dropped the keys. I watched in horror as the keys tumbled end over end, landing four feet below at the bottom of the elevator shaft! Have you ever had one of those “This can’t be happening to me!” moments? This was mine!

The next day was spent not vacationing, but waiting for the elevator company to retrieve the keys.  I was reminded of my mistake and lack of judgement every time I used the elevator that day. There at the bottom of the shaft lay my keys, taunting me. 

Over the years when I reflect upon this experience, I am reminded of the usefulness of keys. The fact is that if we don’t or can’t use our keys, they are of little value.  Many times we fail to take our keys out of our pocket and simply put it in the lock.  Other times we have dropped our keys down the elevator shaft and they are unavailable for use. When I speak, my goal is to inspire the audience to use their keys to unlock the vast opportunities that lie ahead of all of us.  Let me inspire you to use your keys.  

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The Story Begins

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We had been married just two years, our oldest son was only six months old and I was just beginning my second year of dental school when my wife, Cindy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Forty-two years ago, treatment options were limited and she was told that she would probably live 20 years or less. But being young, that dire prognosis didn’t register so we went about living our lives confident in the rich promise of the future.

For 42 of the 44 years we have lived our lives together, MS has been a not-so-silent partner in our marriage. We could have made the decision to “just get by,” but instead we chose to just live our lives normally, as all of us do, perhaps a little more tenaciously than most. In doing so, we have managed to create a life beyond our expectations, one that has been remarkable under any circumstances.

Let me inspire your team to live their dreams!