Thursday, May 21, 2020

ERG Session Helps Caregivers Conduct "Critical Conversations"

Caregivers are people helping people, who often find themselves confronted with extra expenses that affect their financial future. By revealing the growing magnitude and financial implications of this typically silent population and dispelling common myths about caregivers in the workplace, caregivers' insights and experiences are able to inform customer and employee experience strategies.

CUNA Mutual Group’s Caregivers’ Engagement Resource Group (ERG) was established this year to provide a forum for employee caregivers to relate, educate each other through individual experience and knowledge, and celebrate successes personally and as a community. To date, the ERG has grown to 112 members.

On May 20, the ERG hosted an educational session titled, “Critical Conversations.” This virtual event focused on approaching difficult conversations with others, such as the need to consider assisted living; power of attorney or other legal paperwork; and sorting out role and responsibilities with other family members.

The session featured ERG members who shared their personal experiences of what has worked well, what didn’t, and what they might do differently today. The session included a Q&A segment and an opportunity for others to share their personal stories, learn from one another and make connections. Here are some lessons learned and recommendations presenters offered in preparing for and conducting difficult conversations:

       Figure out what’s most important to the person and try to connect that back to help them realize how their actions may endanger what they want.
       No situation is the same; trust your gut/little voice based on the person you care for and others involved.
       Investigate available resources (articles, care networks, agencies, AARP, other services) and use those you are most comfortable with. 
       Have conversations in bite-size pieces. Read the person’s body language, and don’t expect everything to be accomplished in a single conversation. 
       Sometimes talking about your own transitional plans helps. It can prompt them to start thinking about theirs and how it fits (or should fit) with yours.
       Stress that you want to be able to execute on their decisions, so things get done the way they want them to happen. 
       Identify and align with others they trust; they can serve as influencers to help move things in the direction you’re trying to go.  
       Start the conversation about “living” documents (Power of Attorney – Financial and/or Medical) versus “death” documents (will).
       Pull people in for difficult conversations before a situation gets to the tipping point where a transition must be made.
       Plan ahead. Don’t just blurt out the message without any planning.
       For multiple caregivers, identify your roles ahead of time and consider using role-playing principles to prepare for the conversation and try to anticipate objections.
       Flip the perspective to the patient and set up the conversation from their point of view and what’s important to them (retain control, independence, make decisions, etc.)
       Sometimes it’s better to have the experts (doctors) give the patient the information and have the patient make the decisions about what they want to do.

The diverse and complex nature of caregiving means no two situations are the same. Depending on the care need, the relationship between caregiver and recipient, or even the stage of caregiving (acute, stable, or end-of-life), there is no one-size-fits-all approach to many of the challenges facing caregivers. But networks like the Caregivers ERG provides employees a platform to share experience and knowledge, thereby informing each other, their employer, and broader community.