Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are considered one of the cultural centerpieces of Net Health. With the addition of a new, rising ERG known as the Caregiver Collaborative, employees have found a community of people who provide emotional support through active listening, sharing of caregiving, as well as ideas and strategies for self-care.
A Safe Space, Virtual Hugs and People Who Care
We recently spoke to Maria Arellano, Product Manager III; and Carolyn Zsoldos, Implementation Specialist III at Net Health about their leadership roles with this group, and the future of ERG Caregiver Collaborative (CC).
ERG Caregiver Collaborative started in early 2022 by a former co-worker who reached out to several colleagues about joining forces to put together a caregiver-type ERG.
During this time, a few NH colleagues were sharing stories about their caregiving trials and tribulations in caring for a family member or loved one. Soon, whispers of this new group effort came to Maria’s attention. As a previous case manager, joining CC felt natural to her since she was navigating her own caregiving responsibilities with her mother.
She said, “It made sense to join the group. Ultimately, we wanted to have a place where good advice – although not legal advice – could be a sounding board for somebody to come in and say, ‘hey, I’m, having a bad day and could use a virtual hug.’
“I thought this was a great opportunity for people to connect and support each other, even virtually,” she added.
Carolyn, who has a background in nursing and also cares for her mother, agrees. “I’ve taken care of a lot of people. I found this to be an opportunity to help my co-workers understand that they don’t have to be brave or perfect. They can know that the group is here for them to lean on and rest easy in a judgment-free zone.”
A Group That Goes Beyond Caregiving
From the expenses of hiring an at-home caregiver to renting a wheelchair, CC provides support for all aspects of caregiving – including people of all ages and disabilities. While on the outside, the group may seem to be catered solely for those in caregiving roles, the truth is, it has evolved to become so much more than just caregiver’s space. Both Maria and Carolyn note that it has now became a safe space of emotional support for people in different walks of life.
“Even if someone is experiencing a loss, we are here to help them rebuild their life and we want them to know that,” said Maria.
Validation is also at the heart and core of the group. “We want people to feel validated,” remarked Carolyn. “In these unique situations, it’s common to love somebody and resent the situation at the same time. We are here to say it’s okay to feel both.”
Supporting End-of-Life Wishes
Recently, ERG Caregiver Collaborative launched a webinar on the topic of advanced directives. According to the National Institute on Aging, an advanced directive “is only used if you are in danger of dying and need certain emergency or special measures to keep you alive, but you are not able to make those decisions on your own. An advance directive allows you to make your wishes about medical treatment known.” 1
This is a subject matter that is near and dear to Carolyn, who has been recently caring for her mother in hospice care. She has also made it a priority to discuss with her mother what she wants so she can pass away with dignity, and peacefully, in her own home. “
“One of the things that I feel very strongly about is allowing people to make their wishes known, even though it’s an uncomfortable discussion. These conversations give us the freedom to say, ‘I am fulfilling your wishes.’”
Webinars, Virtual Coffee Chats and More
For future events, ERG Caregiver Collaborative plans to hold virtual coffee chats – maybe once a month – in addition to quarterly webinars. And these gatherings are open to all employees.
“You don’t have to be a caregiver or have any current needs necessarily,” explained Maria. “CC is for anyone, from a person in their twenties who has a family relative that is aging, to somebody who is simply curious about getting more information and feeling empowered with the knowledge that they have.”
While caregiving continues to change and evolve, knowing there is a community of people who care, both in and out of the workplace, can be the right dose of comfort and reassurance for those in need.
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1 National Institute on Aging, “Advance Care Planning: Health Care Directives,” January 15, 2018.