Elder Care Workplace Solutions
The Caring Generation® Episode 41 June 3, 2020, On this caregiver radio program, Pamela D Wilson caregiving expert talks about Elder Care Workplace Solutions and Elder Care Programs. Guest Dr. Christopher Fagundes Assistant Professor from the Psychology Department and the Rice University shares research about Caregiving, Stress, and the Immune System.
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Elder Care Workplace Solutions and Elder Care Programs Radio Show Transcript
00:04 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation with host Pamela D. Wilson is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone; in fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.
00:48 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves, and loved ones all tied together with humor and laughter that are essential to being a caregiver.
01:11 Pamela D Wilson: On this program, we’ll be talking about elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs—how these ideas link to the present situation of caregiving and COVID-19. I’ll share situations that caregivers are experiencing that have resulted from the disruptions of COVID-19, including why these situations might feel upsetting. We will relate feeling upset to the big five factors of personality and elder care workplace solutions. Our personalities, the way that we react to life can help us and the companies we work for to determine what type of elder care workplace solutions and communications will help us succeed.
01:54 Pamela D Wilson: I’ll share a specific information about elder care programs and tips for caregivers to manage days when you feel like life is a struggle or has been turned upside down. If we’re all honest, I think we would say that COVID-19 has changed our lives significantly. Changes in daily, routines, schedules, and normal ways of doing things that have taken many of us out of our comfort zones. Our guest for this program will talk about a subject that is familiar to all of us, caregiver stress.
02:28 Pamela D Wilson: Dr. Christopher Fagundes, Associate Professor from Rice University will join us to talk about how stress gets under the skin and impacts health and diseases that our elderly parents are experiencing, and those that we as caregivers may experience in older adulthood. He will share links between stress, chronic disease, and the immune system. We’ve all heard that chronic disease and a weakened immune system makes us more susceptible to COVID-19 and other illnesses. Let’s talk about elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs.
03:07 Pamela D Wilson: I’ll begin by sharing concerns expressed by employees in a recent study completed by the Society of Human Resource Management. As a result of COVID-19, about 40% of all employees are reporting experiencing symptoms of depression often. Thirty-five percent of employees report feeling tired or having a little energy. Let’s take this one step further. Nearly one in four employees, or about 23%, report feeling bad about themselves or feel that they are a failure who has let themselves or their families down because of COVID-19. These employees feel down, depressed, or hopeless; they have little interest in anything. This clearly shows the mental health effects of COVID-19 on employees.
03:55 Pamela D Wilson: If we take this even one step further and relate the concept of feeling depressed, down, and hopeless to the working caregiver population and the need for elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs, we can start again with that one in four employees. That 23% who feel bad. Of that 23%, two in three of those people or about 65%—they are working caregivers—who have greater concerns about COVID and the effects on their family.
04:25 Pamela D Wilson: This 65% of employees with greater worries live with healthcare workers in their immediate family—maybe a husband, wife, daughter, son, or other family member who might be a nurse, a doctor, or staff in a medical facility, or caregivers working in nursing homes or home care agencies. If we add that component of having a healthcare worker in the family, and then on top of that, add having an elderly parent over the age of 65 living in the house, plus, other family members who have risk factors for COVID-19, it’s a crazy situation with a lot of stress.
05:04 Pamela D Wilson: We have a large employee population of working caregivers who are, they just don’t even know what to do. They’re so hopeless. That group, these caregivers, has much in common with the general employee population who are reporting difficulty concentrating. They’re feeling burned out, emotionally drained. Nearly half of the employees in this survey report feeling used up at the end of the day. Women at 48%, to men at 41%. If you’re working, what do you think? Is caregiving adding to more stress during COVID-19?
05:39 Pamela D Wilson: The statistics also confirm that 31% of employees feel like they’ve given up job opportunities. Twenty-eight percent are worried about their pay and their benefits. Twenty-four percent are worried about job security, and 22% are worried about safe working conditions. But on the plus side, 53% of employees say that their relationships with co-workers hasn’t been affected by COVID-19, and even more—65% say their relationships with their supervisor has not been harmed. What do you think, is that true for you? These are research statistics.
06:12 Pamela D Wilson: Let me tell you a little bit about what caregivers are sharing with me, and this information does back up the research. It will emphasize why elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs are really essential programs that employers should offer. They really shouldn’t be optional in the workplace. So, on the topic of working caregivers feeling drained, it’s a common experience that has increased for caregivers who will say that they are remote workers who might have young children and elderly parents in the home. Those remote caregivers are trying to work and minimize distractions.
06:45 Pamela D Wilson: A large percentage of employees in the survey confirm feeling distracted. There’s a huge difference between going to an office where you have a desk and some peace and quiet and trying to work versus trying to do that at home where there is constant commotion and your children and your elderly parents maybe just constantly interrupting you. Some caregivers are telling me that they’re creating this little safe workspace in a bedroom where they can lock the door to minimize interruptions. Another caregiver told me that she turned down a promotion because the family lost the paid caregiver who is coming into the home at night. Now, this caregiver is awake during the night taking care of her father, which would have negatively affected her sleep and her ability to take that promotion to a full-time position. So, in this case, we have working caregivers who are sleep deprived, worrying about giving up job opportunities, lost income. They have job security concerns. The combination of COVID-19 and caregiving has increased mental and physical health concerns for caregivers.
07:50 Pamela D Wilson: Coming up after this break, we have Dr. Christopher Fagundes from Rice University. He’s going to join us to talk about the health effects of stress for caregivers. We’ll also continue our conversation about elder care in the workplace so elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs in the second half of this radio program for caregivers and aging adults. Reminder that helpful information for caregivers and aging adults is in my Caring For Aging Parents Caregiving blog, you can visit my website, www.PamelaDWilson.com. On the top bar, there is a tab, you can click on Caregiving blog, and all of my recent blog posts and articles will show up there. You can also go to the Caring Generation radio show tab. It’s under media, and under that, you will find all of the past Caring Generation Radio Show podcasts and the show transcripts there. There’s a button that you can push to listen to the show while you’re watching and reading it. So check out those programs, they are all there for you as this one will be for you next week. This is Pamela D. Wilson on the Caring Generation live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me we’ll be right back after this break.
11:24 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert. I’m your host, you’re listening to the Caring Generation Radio show for caregivers live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio with us is Dr. Christopher Fagundes from Rice University. Doctor, thank you for joining us.
11:40 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Thanks for inviting me.
11:42 Pamela D Wilson: So let’s start with this question. How does the stress of being a caregiver affect the body?
11:49 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Well, to think that some caregivers gets that chronic stressor. So when you think about any kind of psychological stressors that we experience throughout the day, we have what’s called a stress response, and everybody kind of knows that you have this heart rate that goes up and probably heard of the hormone cortisol being secreted. But in acute short term, isn’t damaging per se. But in something like the stress of caregiving, you get this chronic stressor over time, and what ends up happening then is it actually kind of gets under the skin and impacts just about every system of your body in ways that can make you more vulnerable to diseases. The biggest issue that we see is with caregiving stress in general, is that it also disrupts your ability to recover from stressors, and this has a lot to do with the fact that you’re not able to do the things that would normally help you recover. Like get a good night sleep. Exercise on a regular basis. Have social support to buffer you during those difficult times. All of those things help people go from that peak of stress down the baseline—but caregivers don’t get that as much.
13:13 Pamela D Wilson: I have caregivers in my group who some of them do 20 hours a week, some of these are spousal caregivers 24/7, how does that stress affect their immune systems?
13:24 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: So that’s a really good question. To be honest, caregivers are probably the most well-characterized group of chronically-stressed individuals in the sense of understanding what happens to the immune system. And, it’s not great news, per se, but it’s helpful to know so you can prevent. One thing that’s been demonstrated quite a bit, very reliably, is that it impacts wound healing actually. So there’s been really elegant experimental studies where they actually have caregivers, and match comparisons, and do experimental puncture wounds. They paid for this, and it’s all safe. And what they find is sure enough, wounds heal a lot slower among chronically-stressed caregivers.
14:09 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Other things that we see are control of weight and herpes viruses. So, a way the herpes virus—you might have had chickenpox when you’re a kid, and that would be something called herpes zoster. And what happens is you get chickenpox, and your body figures out how to fight it. And what ends up happening is that for the rest of your life, in latently infected cells, you still have that virus. But here’s the problem. When you’re chronically-stressed. You’re much more likely to have a reactivation if you will. In the case of chickenpox, that would be, you have shingles, as an older adult. Well, shingles, when you’re chronically-stressed. Most of the time, it happens in older adults. But not always.
14:53 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Other things that we see. The biggest one that we’ve been focusing on a lot for the last decade or two, is this notion of systemic inflammation. So when we think of inflammation, we might think of something like a scratch or a wound we get, and you see sort of this redness. That’s actually good, and that’s adaptive. But what we don’t want to see is this chronic levels of low-grade inflammation. And what ends up happening actually, is that when you’re chronically-stressed—cortisol which actually normally puts out the inflammation, you can almost think about it as a fire extinguisher—stops working. The immune cells become insensitive to it. So that’s why you see among chronic, you see in chronic caregiving stress, with a higher level of inflammation in the blood.
15:45 Pamela D Wilson: Oh, it’s a lot of stress. So I know that for older people, they always talk about getting flu and pneumonia and injections or vaccinations. And I saw something in one of your reports about this. So, does stress affect the effectiveness of those vaccines for the caregivers, and for the elderly people who are receiving care?
16:05 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Yes, that’s a good question. Now it really depends on—age is a big deal with this one. So, if you’re chronically-stressed but younger, especially younger than 60, 65, and you get a vaccine. You’re most likely going to do what’s called seroconvert. Meaning that your immune system is going to mount a response, and you’re going to get a four-fold increase in which it’s called antibiotic titers. So, what that means is, you’re protected, right? But, when you get older, that doesn’t always happen. And what we end up seeing is when you’re older, and you’re experiencing chronic stress, like in the case of a caregiver. That’s when we see the real kind of differences emerge. To give you an example, because there’s a study that shows that. The numbers would be different now because influenza vaccines have changed. But there was one of the initial studies that show that among 70-year olds, only 60% actually had that four-fold increase maintained. But in caregivers, it was down to 26%.
17:24 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Now, those are only for people that are over 70. So you can see how age and stress interact. Other vaccines like you mentioned the pneumonia vaccine, that is also highly relevant in a sense of stress impacting your ability to seroconvert. And the reason why that has any differential—so when we talk about the flu vaccine—is because it doesn’t. The pneumonia vaccine works independently of a certain aspect of the immune system called T-cells.
17:57 Pamela D Wilson: And can you translate this to the, we’re all expecting this Coronavirus vaccine to be a miracle, I’m going to guess that we’re going be heading out to a break. So let me ask you this question then. When we come back from the break, you can answer it. So, a lot of caregivers are saying to me, “Oh, we’re just waiting for this vaccine because we’re worried about taking the virus into our elderly parents.” And so after the break, if you can maybe answer, “Is that vaccine going to be an answer? Or is it still going be less effective in those stressed caregivers, and in their elderly parents who have a lot of chronic disease?”
18:29 Pamela D Wilson: Listeners, we will continue our conversation with Dr. Fagundes from Rice University after this break. Check out the podcast of this show on my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com. It’s on the media tab and then The Caring Generation Radio Show. This is Pamela D. Wilson, your host for The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
21:16 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to the Caring Generation Radio Program for caregivers and aging adults, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. We’re back with Dr. Christopher Fagundes from Rice University. Doctor, if you could answer that question that I posed before the break about the coronavirus vaccine and effectiveness.
21:39 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Yes. So the question about will the coronavirus vaccine be less effective among highly stressed caregivers? We have no reason to think it wouldn’t, and in a way, that’s because we know that COVID-19 produces what we would say is a robust response to, and T-cells are heavily involved. That’s actually a really good thing. Because that means that we are getting memory, and there is a huge potential for a vaccine to work. But there is good news related to this. Just like now, what we do with like the influenza vaccine, is give a higher dose to those in vulnerable populations. They might have some type of protocol developed for that for this vaccine. Of course, all that work needs to be kind of done before we’ll know that kind of thing. But what you typically see with the influenza vaccine now that all this research we did on caregivers 20 years ago has taught us, is to get a higher dose. For example, another option could be a booster type of shot.
22:49 Pamela D Wilson: That makes sense. So you were talking earlier about the differences in age. Somebody who’s 16 maybe versus somebody who’s 80 and stress and everything. Is there an explanation of that—of a higher mortality risk due to all this chronic stress and inflammation, and then how does sleep come into all of that? [chuckle]
23:10 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Yes. So chronic stress does appear to impact people. So we’ll just call their biological age. So if you think about it, there’s the chronological age, and that’s just how old you are. And the biological age is, well, if we took your cells and looked at them, especially these things called telomeres that you might have heard of, at the end of DNA. We can look at differences in a standardized way that can determine one’s biological age. Basically, how stress and other factors in their life have made their biological age either longer or shorter. There’s a classic study that shows that among older adults that they saw a 15-year differential between individuals that were caregivers, these were older adult caregivers versus match comparisons. I wouldn’t think much of the actual number 15. It can move around a bit. But what it shows is it’s certainly impacting the aging process. But the good news is we know things we can do about it, and we’re getting better and better at taking those into account in our lives. So one major factor that impacts people’s biological age, of course, is sleep.
24:36 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: As far as how it impacts what we call inflammation. Which I’ve talked about a little earlier. Which is very, very related to people’s biological age. What we see is that people that have frequent sleep disturbances are at risk. The interesting part is that shorter sleep duration in and of itself—recent work has shown that that probably doesn’t enhance inflammation until you get to the point of sleep deprivation. So, it seems to be the disturbances that one needs to look out, which obviously, is a difficult thing when we’re talking about certain individuals within the caregiving population. Other things that people can do—we’re learning more and more about it—fascinating the studies to show that meditation, mindfulness, yoga practices don’t just make people feel better psychologically, but we actually when we take their blood and look at how it’s impacting inflammatory levels and different biomarkers that I’ve talked about earlier, that are associated with aging, they’re reversing. So there is something we can do.
25:49 Pamela D Wilson: So, we’ve got this aging issue, we’ve got the lack of sleep. What other factors are impacting the stress that caregivers are experiencing?
25:58 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Well, the thing with stress, in general, is that it’s highly variable based on a lot of different things about a person’s background. So, in one sense, how we interpret a stressor. So, not two people interpret stressors in the same way. We know for caregivers that those that have high self-efficacy, meaning that they think to themselves, “This could be a challenge, but I can overcome it,” seem to have better outcomes. We also know things like, early adversity has an effect on how people are able to navigate stressors later in life. So those types of things actually impact just how the stressor is going to affect this. So even though you can be the same age in the same situation, what you come in with and how you’re interpreting those stressors plays a major role.
27:00 Pamela D Wilson: You were talking about blood tests earlier, and this is a totally off-the-wall question. But let’s say I’m this stressed-out caregiver, and I go to my doctor, and I ask him to run a blood test to tell me if I’m stressed. Is that possible?
27:11 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Well, the thing is, yes and no. You could ask for a test of how high are your inflammatory levels, which we know are impacted by stress, and you get something called C-reactive protein or CRP assessed. But the thing is that also has confounds. For example, being overweight, eating a lot of high-fat meals that could also impact those levels. So, the source of that high inflammation you wouldn’t be 100% confident with.
27:41 Pamela D Wilson: Where it was coming from.
27:43 Dr. Christopher Fagundes: Other things that we know impact stress are blood pressure, but once again, that’s multifaceted. So there are indicators, but at the same time, those indicators could also be indicators of other risk factors.
27:55 Pamela D Wilson: That makes sense, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for joining us. We’re going head out to our next break. Listeners, check out the podcast to this show. It’ll be on my website next week at www.PamelaDWilson.com. Go to the media tab, and then click on the link for The Caring Generation Radio Show. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, your host for The Caring Generation. You are with us live on the BBM global network channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me, we’ll be right back after this break.
30:43 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults. Coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, health, and everything in between. We’re back to talk about elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs. Earlier in the program, I mentioned the big five personality factors. Some of these relate to the idea of the word ocean, O-C-E-A-N, because the traits include openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, which also means negativity.
31:29 Pamela D Wilson: Studies confirm that these traits can predict workplace behavior and performance, and even to the extent that they can help employees work well with others. That concept is important for workplaces who offer elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs. Rather than having working caregivers feel like they have to choose between work and leaving a job to become that full-time caregiver for an elderly parent if the workplace will investigate and offer elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs, everybody can be more open to finding solutions to meet the needs of the workplace and the needs of caregivers who might be working remotely or coming into the office. If we do that, that really represents a win-win solution for everybody. However, making elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs available also means that working caregivers must be willing to learn new habits and learn new information.
32:29 Pamela D Wilson: So in addition to all of the statistics that we talked about, that relate to employee stress as the result of COVID-19, there are actually statistics about the effects of education on population health. So if you guys have been watching TV, and you see Dr. Deborah Birx out there and Dr. Fauci, they’re talking a lot about population health and trying to educate those of us who are watching those news briefings or those of us who have. Our responses to the challenges posed by COVID-19 are better or worse because of the skills and the knowledge that we learn from press briefings like those—and also knowledge that we possess—maybe from our workplaces in the areas of critical thinking and problem-solving.
33:18 Pamela D Wilson: Caregiver stress levels increase when problems relating to the care of elderly parents increase—that is no surprise. Stress rises when health and money decisions have to be made, and caregivers a lot of times are afraid of making the wrong decisions, or at least that’s what they tell me. The idea of making difficult decisions in caregiving, it’s not new. There is more on that subject in The Caring Generation radio podcast called Making Life-Changing Decisions where I talk about the emotional trade-offs of making those difficult decisions.
33:49 Pamela D Wilson: elder care workplace solutions should always include caregiving awareness and caregiving online programs to offer working caregivers the opportunity to learn about everything involved with caregiving. Lifestyle choices, health risks, how to manage stress—caregivers who become more educated—they are less likely to develop unhealthy coping styles that relate to stress. We talked a little bit about that with Dr. Fagundes. The unhealthy coping styles are likely those 23% of employees in this study, who said that they felt hopeless and helpless and depressed. By learning, caregivers in that group can feel empowered to change situations. They can gain confidence in their caregiving skills and abilities.
34:35 Pamela D Wilson: And really, it’s no surprise that COVID-19—as I call it has just been a routine crusher for everybody—including working employees. If you’re a caregiver, you know the effects of a change in routine upon your aging parent. COVID has changed all of our routines. Changing your routine is a very common factor for both caregivers and elderly parents. Because in a sense, we’re in this health disaster. This COVID added on top of everything together because everything is changing—whether we want it to or not. We are totally not in control of this situation. So if you think about it, how many people do you know personally or at work who are not open to new ideas, meaning they want to stick with what they know? That means that for those people, any type of change, responding to the unexpected situations of being a caregiver, changes from COVID-19 will be more stressful for those people who lack that personality trait of being open. Success in being a remote worker and juggling work and caregiving means that those caregivers have to be more open to new ideas and concepts. New ways to be able to get the work done.
35:44 Pamela D Wilson: Employees in all walks of life should be open to participating in elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs so that you can learn how to manage stress. In a sense, we’re kind of looking at how to reprogram that computer in our brain to avoid saying, “Well, we’ve never done it that way.” Or, “This is how we’ve always done that.” Closed thinking won’t get us moving forward to relieve the stress of change that results from COVID-19’s effect on being that caregiver.
36:14 Pamela D Wilson: As a caregiver, if you think of an interaction with the healthcare system, maybe a doctor, you can think about the idea of openness. So, research confirms that physicians communicate less with patients who appear to be disinterested or less educated. Patients and older adults who go to appointments, and they don’t ask questions. They don’t take an interest in their health. The doctors give them more directive suggestions, than have conversations with them. So, in this case, fewer discussions occur. There’s a lower level of interaction between the doctor and you as the patient or your elderly parent. So in a sense, it results in a lack of teamwork, and problem-solving. When you think of openness in that manner, how does being closed-minded result in less than an ideal situation? It really results in your elderly parent not getting the care that he or she really wants or needs.
37:07 Pamela D Wilson: In my elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs—my class participants—I offer them specific instructions for becoming educated and more engaged caregivers and patients, so that you are taken seriously by the healthcare system. That idea of openness also results in the idea of vulnerability, and caregivers being able to say, “Hey, I know I don’t know everything.” It’s so true. It’s impossible to know everything that can possibly occur. And by stating that—then doctors are more open to have conversations with you to give more information.
37:42 Pamela D Wilson: So if we look at the personality factor of conscientiousness, it’s that pattern of being persistent and determined to achieve a goal which is care for your elderly parents. Employees who are high on that trait, they work hard. Put plans into action. Get the job done. Conscientious people nearly always finish what they start, and they’re less likely to be swayed by impulsive behaviors. People who are low in conscientiousness tend to change course, and they can be easily distracted. So the word spontaneous and impulsive might apply to those people. As conscientious caregivers, we want to be orderly, dependable, determined, dutiful, to the care of our parents, and it’s a skill that we can learn. Many caregivers fall into situations because they don’t think about the long-term. That’s the similar habit that probably got our parents to where they are today needing help and being unprepared.
38:31 Pamela D Wilson: So we’ll talk more on the subject of conscientiousness and the link to being a caregiver responding to COVID-19 after this break. Helpful information for caregivers and aging adults is on my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com. This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, author, and speaker on The Caring Generation, live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me, we’ll be right back.
41:14 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, this is the Caring Generation coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Share the Caring Generation with your elderly parents, brothers, sisters and your workplace. We’re back talking about the idea of conscientiousness. So a similar habit that we can talk about is this idea of wanting something. So, for example, rather than saying something like, “Oh, there’s a donut and I want to have this donut.” If you are a conscientiousness person, you may say, “Well, I see that donut there. I’m not going eat it because I’m trying to lose weight or because I have high cholesterol.” So conscientiousness is—it’s a personality trait—it’s a skill that we can learn if we want to achieve specific goals. Elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs can succeed in improving care for our elderly parents when we become open-minded and conscientiousness. As caregivers, it’s not possible to know everything.
42:10 Pamela D Wilson: So when we create consistent routines and habits, we have a better opportunity to be successful in helping our elderly parents manage their health and in managing all of the tasks that we are doing for our elderly parents. The third in the big five personality factors is the extroversion that matches with the idea of positive emotions. We all know that COVID-19 has raised levels of negativity and worry and fear. According to that research study, nearly 60% of caregivers are worried about transmitting the virus to a family member, especially an older parent. So this translates to—if your parent doesn’t live with you, how do you communicate without this person-to-person contact or visits? Because of the challenges of no contact, some caregivers they have told me that they are considering moving elderly parents into their home. Some have already done that. They’ve taken their parents out of nursing homes and out of assisted living communities, moved them into their home temporarily. But now they have another problem. They realize that as they go out and their young children start to go out and come back into the house, they could be presenting a greater health risk to those elderly parents.
43:22 Pamela D Wilson: So now, they’re worried about moving their elderly parents back into those communities after all of the nursing home scares and the lockdowns and the publicity about the virus. So it seems like right now. There’s no perfect care options, and I’m not really sure that anybody has all the answers for the risks that are posed by COVID-19. So let’s talk a little bit more about this idea of extroversion and positive thinking. Participation in elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs benefit from having an optimistic attitude about learning new information and improving skills to be successful in that role of a caregiver. The percentage of the workplace who is feeling depressed or hopeless and helpless, they may tend to be a little more closed-minded. Maybe they have black and white thinking where it’s A or B. All or nothing. No compromise. No meeting in the middle. That type of thinking actually makes those people feel more anxious, more stressed. Catastrophizing is another tendency related to depression, stress, and anxiety, that happens when a caregiver or sometimes an elderly parent, just ruminate about worst-case scenarios.
44:32 Pamela D Wilson: And sometimes if we constantly focus on like, “what if this happens or what if that happens?” It can freeze us from taking any action at all to move forward. And sometimes, when we don’t have enough information, we can’t make decisions either, and then our minds just take us to this place of thinking that everything is a disaster and it’s terrible. That last idea relates to negative thinking, and it kind of goes into the idea of discounting the positive. So an example of that would be saying, “well, we’re a basketball team. We only won this game because the other team was having a bad day. It didn’t have anything to do about us being a good team.” Elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs will stretch people in those programs to think more positively. We talked about being extroverted and being positive as a good quality. We can talk about the opposite. Which is another big five trait called neuroticism, which describes negative responses to stress. Highly neurotic people are likely to be more anxious, depressed, and angry. They are more vulnerable. They doubt their abilities. They’re more likely to make negative statements saying, “oh, this will never work”. And they also have a more difficult time coping with change, stressful situations, and problem-solving. So COVID-19 for people who are neurotic right now is a bad situation.
45:57 Pamela D Wilson: Especially because sometimes those people just want to protect themselves and they don’t want to think of new ideas or options or how to solve problems. So that creates sometimes some self-fulfilling prophecies. Where people act in ways that will guarantee that they’re going to fail. The last five of these big five personality factors is the idea of agreeableness. Being agreeable means that we want to get along with other people and it can relate to teamwork in the workplace too and teamwork in family caregiving situations. But there’s pluses and minuses. Being too agreeable as caregivers can result in burnout and exhaustion like Dr. Fagundes talked about. Because caregivers will always say, “yes.” and they feel that they can never say, “no.” Agreeableness is also the idea of that primary caregiver who tries to do it all, women are more likely to do that than men. And while we all want to be agreeable and work with others—elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs will teach you that it’s best to try to balance the caregiving and the teamwork. Fifty percent by the caregiver, 50% by the elderly parent, and if there are other people in the family—the more that you can get them to participate so that that primary caregiver doesn’t feel like they’re being overwhelmed of taken advantage of that works out better.
47:18 Pamela D Wilson: Now, we have this new world of remote work and caregiving. With that, the factors of being conscientious and agreeable are very beneficial in all aspects of life. Conscientious people always find ways to get things done. So, we’re going continue to talk about this after the break, and we’ll talk about the nursing home lockdowns and more issues related to COVID. Caregiving training, education, onsite videos, caregiving video conferences—those all support working caregivers when they are included in corporate employee wellness programs. More information for caregivers and aging adults is on my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com. This is Pamela D. Wilson, you are listening to The Caring Generation, live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
50:25 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. This is The Caring Generation Radio Program for caregivers and aging adults, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. We’re back to continue talking about COVID-19 and being a working caregiver, and how all of this has raised awareness of health concerns for the elderly and people with chronic disease, which I actually see as positive. But in all of this, we’re also going to talk about the idea of caregivers feeling unprepared and unsupported. And that can really be true of any significant life transition because being a caregiver, it takes a lot of twists and turns. Human resource departments are really challenged to identify elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs that can meet the wide-ranging needs of the working caregiver population. Because elderly parents will move through different stages of caregiving and sometimes back and forth and up and down.
51:25 Pamela D Wilson: There’s no one quick or easy answer to situations that are already in motion. So one plan is to offer elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs that increase awareness of the complexities of caregiving before these things happen. That concept is the difference between reflecting on change instead of reacting to change. So think about how the world might have reacted differently to COVID-19 if that threat of this hundred-year virus was investigated and planned four years ago. The last time the world saw something like this was the flu of 1918. Even though we’ve seen some bumps in the road. In 2002 to 2004, SARS was back, 2009 we had H1N1, then we had Ebola, but we figured out how to manage those. The facts stand. Education does have a positive effect on population health. The more educated we desire to become—we agree to become as individuals and working employees and working caregivers—the better we become at problem-solving and asking the right questions. We can build some critical thinking skills. We can make better decisions for our health and the care of our elderly parents. So if we think about combining elder care and caregiving education with these aspects of the big five personality traits, we build resilience. We can bounce back more positively to respond to stress, instead of letting stress feel like we’re drowning.
53:00 Pamela D Wilson: Human resource departments who are investing in elder care workplace solutions and elder care programs can support healthy behaviors for working caregivers and transfer that knowledge. It goes to the care of our elderly parents. According to writer Annie Dillard of Gettysburg College, the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, or one-third of our lives working. It is so true that our jobs make a huge impact on our quality of life. Becoming educated makes a significant impact on our quality of life, including our health and years down the road for us.
53:42 Pamela D Wilson: I know so many caregivers who are very uncomfortable navigating the healthcare system. Especially, trying to work with care communities and nursing homes, and hearing about all of the scary lockdowns. They don’t know whether they should put their parents in or take their parents out or go to a doctor appointment or not go to a doctor appointment. A lot of caregivers don’t trust the medical system, because they don’t understand how it works. And what we all have to realize is the health care system has other priorities. They have a lot of priorities, which don’t always match what we as caregivers want or expect. And the reality is, in my opinion, the workplace needs to support working caregivers and working employees, otherwise, we’re not going to make the progress that we need to. Employees need access to systems like computer labs in the workplace, online elder care workplace solutions so that we have greater access to healthcare. So so that we’re not as intimidated. We know what questions we should be asking to be able to make this work for everybody.
54:48 Pamela D Wilson: If you have future ideas for radio programs, most of these subjects come from the caregivers in my groups. You can visit my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com. Go to the contact button at the top, and you can send me an email. You can also follow me on Facebook. My page is PamelaDWilson.page where you can join my caregiving group. It is called the Caregiving Trap. Please do share the Caring Generation with your family and your friends. One in four people you know are caregivers out there looking for hope, help, and support that is here every Wednesday night and in all the podcast replays of the radio show.
55:27 Pamela D Wilson: I thank you all for being family caregivers for your elderly loved ones and thanks to all the professional healthcare workers out there who are doing an amazing job during COVID-19 with all of this work. Please invite your family, your friends, and your co-workers to join us every Wednesday evening. I’m Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert, advocate and speaker. God bless you. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow, and a great week until we are together again.
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