Finding meaning in difficult situations can help us heal and build resilience – and 2020 was nothing if not difficult. So what did working daughters learn this year? What lessons can we carry with us into 2021 and share with the rest of the world?
1. Caregivers are more than visitors. No one was prepared for the coronavirus and it’s devastating impact, especially senior living facilities that were hit so hard by the global pandemic. When nursing homes across the country went in to lockdown, we were cut off from the people we care for and love. The same happened in hospitals and assisted living facilities. While administrators scrambled to contain the virus, they, understandably, shut their doors to the outside world. But caregivers are more than visitors. We understand our parents’ habits, history, context, culture and traditions. We can connect with family in ways others cannot. Caregivers are critical members of the care team. We need access to our family members and this is a message that we must continue to spread.
2. Advocacy matters. We knew this prior to the pandemic, but 2020 made it painfully clear: we must advocate for policies to better support aging adults and their caregivers. From fair pay and workplace protections for the paid caregivers who care for our parents, to better oversight of senior living facilities, tax credits for family caregivers, paid family leave for working daughters and sons, to affordable options for aging in place, we need to raise our collective voices and demand better representation from our elected officials. Ways you can act now include: supporting the AARP’s fight for nursing home patients, supporting the Domestic Workers Alliance, and joining the growing list of working daughters who want to stay up to date on advocacy opportunities.
3. Caregivers are visible. Here’s another outtake from 2020: family caregivers are no longer in the shadows. From the nurses and doctors in ICUs who held our family members’ hands while also providing medical care, to the parents who lost access to childcare and tried to work, teach and do laundry all at the same time (welcome to our world!), to our employers who could virtually peer into our lives via Zoom, this is the year the world began to understand all that we do and all that we are capable of. The visibility and empathy was hard earned. Let’s make it count.
4. Work from home works. Speaking of our employers, when most of the country was asked to work from home last March, suddenly even the most old-fashioned managers realized face time isn’t everything. Work life flexibility took a giant leap forward in 2020 and that should help us all moving forward.
5. Togetherness is precious. As caregivers, we often get so focused on our relentless to-do lists, that we forget to savor the small things that truly matter. But when COVID-19 made accessing those small things so challenging, we realized how much they matter to us. Slowing down. Sharing a cup of tea or reminiscing with our parents. Family gatherings – even with the inevitable drama! May we remember to find joy in simple moments as 2021 unfolds.
6. Self-care matters and it’s much more than manicures. As we struggled with stress and grief, the likes of which some of us had never faced before, we realized we had to protect our well-being. If we didn’t, we would be in no condition to take care of ourselves, let alone anyone else. Eating well, sleeping enough, practicing mindfulness – this is the self-care that truly matters. And these were the things we could control in a year that reminded us just how little control we have over the world around us. As you set your New Year’s resolutions, be sure to factor in caring for your mental as well as your physical health – and control what you can control – your thoughts and actions.
7. We don’t need to become resilient – we already are. Resiliency was a major buzzword this year. I don’t know about you, but my inbox was flooded with offers of books, webinars, and courses to help me build resilience. Thanks but, I’m a caregiver and I can teach the master class. And so can you! You are strong. You are brave. You are living love out loud. And you are resilient. I hope you know that.
Happy New Year!