I’m amazed at what people are capable of. This week I met a nurse leader who manages a neonatal intensive care and transport unit while mothering 5 children (one of her own, 3 adopted and one foster) – I spilled into amazement when she couldn’t meet with me at a particular time because she had Rotary obligations. I was on an airplane and met someone who cared for her ailing, rapidly dying husband, was the sole family earner, with only spotty help from family. She was on her way to a short-term paying gig. I hear stories like this when I meet caregivers. Caregivers have other lives too. Are all these people saints? They would all say, what else would I do? It’s done for love, sense of obligation, inertia, no choice, who knows. Still, 93 million caregivers in the US. As Don Berwick, candidate for governor of Massachusetts said to me recently, it’s by far the largest health care workforce in the country. Do you know the caregivers in your midst? They’re everywhere. It’s like walking with a cane-suddenly you see all the people with canes.
I’m reading a book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Some highly effective people are caregivers. Some caregivers are highly effective people. Covey talks about delegation. Effective people delegate. Effective caregivers delegate. Many people have a few minutes to help the helpers. Effective caregivers know how to delegate: shopping, laundry, errands, sitting, accompanying, cooking, cleaning, on and on. Really, though, most caregivers are stuck with caregiving. With no societal support, no help, no relief. If 1% of caregivers, 930,000 people, couldn’t caregive, Medicare and Medicaid would go broke. (At a conservative estimate of $5,000 per year in additional cost, that’s $4.65 BILLION per year). You policy wonks: what do we do now? This number will only increase.