I believe that people are here in order to make a bigger impact in the world — and with my book, ‘Make an Impact’, I had the chance to prove that hundreds of people are using their influence to improve other people’s lives.
As the founder of the Health Bloggers Community, my mission is to support people with growing their passion into a business — and so many women are building businesses empires all over the world.
This series is a chance to spotlight some of these women.
“I am creating a movement to show business the wisdom of supporting family caregiving. Caregivers are resourceful and dedicated people.”
Tracey Lawrence, author of “Dementia Sucks: A Caregiver’s Journey — With Lessons Learned,” is the founder of Grand Family Planning LLC. Having cared for two parents who succumbed to dementia, Tracey turned her heartbreaking personal experiences into an entertaining and informative book, and a business that helps caregivers navigate and survive the challenges of illness, aging and family dynamics. She also helps businesses to attract and retain the best employees by helping them establish family caregiving friendly policies and resources to encourage greater productivity at home and in the office.
Hello Tracey, thank you for joining us! Could you please share with us when it all began?
For most of my adult life, I was a graphic artist. I enjoyed helping clients realize their marketing vision with logos, collateral, websites, video and custom training. When my parents got sick, I didn’t see it coming. Having to help them as they declined was terrible, heart-wrenching and extremely challenging. I had to learn a lot in a very short time while coping with grief, stress, and being pulled in many directions.
My parents lived in Florida, and my husband and I live in northern New Jersey. We kept in touch by phone, and I thought they were doing fine until I saw my father in Florida in the spring of 2003. It was clear that he wasn’t well, and he was hospitalized soon after. During that crisis, his short term memory evaporated. I brought my parents to New Jersey to help them.
By July 2004, my father died, and my mother returned to independent living in Florida. My husband and I visited my mother frequently and provided support. She suffered a heart attack in June 2006, which she reported to me over the phone. She resisted going to her doctor until I made an appointment for her and insisted she go. Two stents later, she was back in action.
She required gall bladder surgery in 2009. I moved her back to New Jersey, so I could manage her care and ensure it was done properly. The surgery was a success, and I took her back to Florida to live with the help of an aide. In 2010, she was clearly experiencing cognitive decline, so we moved her back in with us and I became her full-time caregiver. That changed my life forever.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
Many of us will be called upon to provide support to aging loved ones. When that happens, we have to change our relationship with those in our care, and the way we view ourselves.
1. We have to stop deferring to elders as we did when we were children. When parents are losing ground, they tend to grapple with their children for control. But if the adult children are being asked to take responsibility for their parents’ lives, they have to find the strength and resolve to stand by the decisions they are forced to make. It’s a very difficult transition, but it’s important to remember that no one takes on this kind of role lightly, and the declining loved ones no longer have the energy or perspective to make the best decisions, especially when dementia becomes part of the picture. Leave guilt in the rearview mirror and take pride in the tough job you’ve willingly taken on.
2. If you are asked to take responsibility for your loved ones, make sure you have the legal authority to do so. Enlist the aid of an elder law attorney and have your parents participate while they are still cognitively intact. If they push back and give you a hard time about this, take a step back. Let them know that responsibility without authority is not acceptable. Welcome them to manage on their own without your help. It may seem mean, but it’s tough love. You need to protect them and yourself.
3. Take time out for you. Self-care is extremely important. Schedule massages. Practice meditation. Take a yoga class and don’t miss it unless there’s an unavoidable emergency. Go to your own doctors for your exams. Find others you can delegate respite caregiving to, so you can focus on your own needs periodically. You must relax and recharge on a regular basis.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I was hired by a family that was caring for a 94 year old woman in their home. It was a very tense situation, and the family didn’t realize this woman had dementia. We suggested a “respite stay” for the woman at a lovely group home. The family was thrilled with the placement and the woman was settling in nicely, until an adult child, a daughter who had been out of the picture, showed up at the home and tried to gain guardianship of her mother. It was ugly and messy, but we helped this family overcome the challenge with an amazing attorney and the unique team approach we bring. The guardianship-seeking troublemaker lost her frivolous case and our clients are very pleased with the outcome.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
You can offer people great advice, but they won’t necessarily take it. I’ve had several cases where the smart course was obvious to me because of all the experience I have. But clients don’t have the same perspective.
A lot of times, they tell themselves things that aren’t true, and when you try to show them how a change can help, they resist.
You can’t help people who won’t be helped.
But when people struggle to do things on their own and they’re open to finding a better, more economical way, they are grateful.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Caregiving is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Most people fall into it with no preparation. They usually come to it in crisis mode, and make a lot of bad decisions. And they often hurt themselves, focusing only on the needs of the loved-one, without taking their own needs into consideration.
Add to that the sheer number of aging people: with 10,000 people in the US turning 65 every day, the ranks of people in need is exploding, and their adult children are having to step up.
Most of them have other demands, and caregiving puts an unexpected additional stressor front and center in their lives.
By helping employers understand the magnitude of the problem and how it impacts their ability to hire and retain people, I am enabling the creation of more supportive environments at work, where employees can connect with other people in their situation, access resources, learn about their options and find ways to take much-needed time off without fear of losing their jobs. Getting the information out to those in need when they are earlier along in the process, with the support of the firms they work for, will help many more people to live better, with less stress.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My care manager and business partner, Aileen Rabizadeh, has been key. We started when my mother had become a violent geriatric delinquent and I didn’t know where to place her. Aileen worked for a chain of memory care group homes at the time. She took my mother in at one of the homes and helped us through the end of my mother’s life. Her unique skill set has been foundational to the work we do and her contacts are invaluable in meeting the challenges we regularly encounter.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I am creating a movement to show business the wisdom of supporting family caregiving. Caregivers are resourceful and dedicated people.
Businesses need resourceful and dedicated employees. By heightening awareness of the problem and working with companies and government agencies, we can create environments that enable more effective and healthful caregiving, and solve the staffing crisis at the same time. We can enhance productivity and save lives.
What is your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. It takes (at least) 5 years to become an overnight sensation. You have to be confident in your vision, willing to fail, willing to adapt and ready to ride out the storm.
2. Having a clear vision is essential. You can’t achieve what you want unless you define it clearly.
3. When you’re ahead of the curve, it can be lonely. Find others who get your vision and will stick with you for the long haul. You need people who can talk you down off the ledge of self-doubt.
Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be?
Mim Senft of Motivity Partners and Global Women for Wellbeing (GW4W). Mim’s understanding of the current landscape, where so many women in leadership positions are also caregivers, is inspirational. I’m thrilled to be working with her on a webinar on the topic (“The Caregiving Crisis — What You Need to Know” on June 25th, 2019 at noon ET) and a number of other events and initiatives.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
The relationship between lifestyle and mental health have become very clear, and there are doctors and clinicians writing books about it. “The End of Alzheimer’s” by Dr. Dale Bredesen and “The Alzheimer’s Solution” by Dean and Ayesha Sherzai give me hope for the future. Cognitive decline does NOT have to be a part of the aging process, and they are proving that diet, exercise, stress management and reduction of toxicity can both PREVENT and REVERSE the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, I have recently joined forces with a non-profit called Sharp Again Naturally, an organization dedicated to conquering cognitive decline with new testing and treatment protocols.
About the author:
Fab Giovanetti is a business mentor, published author, influencer-specialist, best known as the founder of the Health Bloggers Community and co-founder of the Register of Health and Wellness Influencers. Serial start-up founder and professional troublemaker, she is obsessed with avocados and helping people making an impact in health and wellness. Sounds like you? Get daily tips on how to grow your influence via the HBC magazine.