The Working Daughter Interview: Chris MacLellan

Chris MacLellanNo, Chris MacLellan is not a working daughter, but he is the face of caregiving. And as he tells us, “There are no orientation or gender boundaries in Caregiving.”  Chris is “The Bow Tie Guy,” author of the book What’s The Deal with Caregiving, host of the Healing Ties radio show, founder of the company The Whole Care Network, and the blogger behind the fantastic caregiving blog  The Purple Jacket.  

Where and when do you feel most competent? ​I feel most competent when I am behind a microphone interviewing guests, sharing information, bringing people together. While I enjoy one on one and group presentations too, radio is where I feel most competent and confident! Writing also provided me with the opportunity to express myself, yet not in a way that being behind a microphone does!

With what do you struggle? ​Since my partner passed way in March of 2014, I have struggled with loneliness and isolation. While I know each one of us experiences loss in life, loss is so personal and so real. I have had to force myself to set outside my comfort zone and I am slowly starting to do that. ​​However, I recognized that the isolation started before he made his life transition while he was so sick and then intensified after his death. I had an “ah ha” moment in July of 2015 which has helped me step outside my isolation.

What one thing do you wish you had more time for? While in the midst of caregiving, I always wished we had more time to travel and do things together.

With what do you wish you had more help? I can’t think of anything as I felt like I had quite a bit of help along the way. ​

Where do you find support? The network of family caregivers on line is simply tremendous. I have had the privilege of talking to Caregivers all over the world through my blog, social media, and my favorite Caregiving website, Caregiving.com. We were fortunate that we had quite a bit of support from our family and friends, too. It is so important to create a care-team while in the midst of Caregiving. The Care team helps everyone in the process and you know that you can call on them at a moments notice to help. ​

What is your best habit? ​Goodness, I have to think about this one! Even now 18 months past my partner dying, I am still trying to get back in touch with myself. Someone recently asked me what are my hobbies. That question stopped me in my tracks too.

If you knew then, what you know now…I would have taken better care of myself while on our Caregiving journey. When we are in the midst of Caregiving, we forget to take care of ourselves. I know it happened to me and lack of self care is a trademark of Caregivers. We get so immersed in the care of someone else, that we forget our own needs. That is when Caregiving becomes frustrated or burdensome.

What is your dream retirement? My dream retirement is to have a small little bungalow, not to far to far from the beach, where I can walk in the morning and in the afternoon. It does not have to be secluded, but not in a major metropolitan area. In fact, I already have the spot picked out! ​

What would you like to see employers do more of to help caregivers? I touched on this subject 3D1in my book What’s The Deal With Caregiving. I would like to see employers create a work place culture that is supportive of Caregivers that is not government-mandated, yet created through collaboration with management and staff. When a business owner and the executive leaders create circles of collaboration among their employees, problems are solved creatively and quickly. Employers can be of tremendous help to Caregivers by simply acknowledging the Caregiving phenomena and creating policies that are advantageous to everyone involved in the process. The philosophy is a win/win for the business, the morale of the office, the Caregiver employee. When an employer treats staff like a beloved family and acknowledges that Caregiving is a part of the process of life for most, they gain respect of their people and create a workplace culture that supports the whole person and the entire community of employees for the long haul.   Smart employers adopt innovative ways to keep productivity high and help everyone become successful no matter what like throws at their staff.

What would you like to see medical professionals do more of to support caregivers? I would like to see the medical professionals, especially the primary case physician, ask the Caregiver on a regular basis how they are doing!   Caregiver stress is an epidemic that has profound effect on the Caregivers’ health and well-being which in turn, will effect the health and well-being of their Caree. The CDC does not track Caregivers stress because the doctors are not asking about it, nor are the Caregivers talking about it.   One way to foster major change in the Caregiving phenomena is to track the stress level of the Caregiver. Stress affects all areas of life. Caregiver stress leads to lost wages, lost productivity, lost revenue. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps repeating itself because no one ever prepares to be a Caregiver, Caregiving just happens! Having the physicians simply ask about a Caregiver’s stress is one thing, being proactive to foster change by having the CDC recognize Caregiver stress would heighten the issue even further while fostering change that would have a positive impact on everyone!

Who are your heroines? Without a doubt, my four older sisters. Being the youngest of a large family, I had the opportunity to sit back and watch how my four sisters, pretty much on their own, raised and cared for their kids in a very special way. My sisters helped develop my care gene and I always tell people that I was “trained” very well by my sisters. They are my heroes!

What do you admire in/about other caregivers? What I admire most about Caregivers is the ability to interact with each other. All Caregivers have this innate ability to understand each other, even when our Caregiving journeys are different. When you are a Caregiver, it is like having an extended family, a comfort zone to go to, a soft shoulder to lay on. That is why for me, there are no orientation or gender boundaries in Caregiving. We all simply care for the one we love and each and every Caregiver is there for each other was well. ​

What is your motto? Since I am known as the Bow Tie Guy, this is simple! “Wearing a bow tie is like wearing two smiles!” ​

What is your superpower? My super power? To stay calm in the midst of chaos. ​

Caregiving: a blessing or a burden? When you are in the middle of Caregiving, it can seem like a burden, but it really isn’t. I believe it is an honor to be a Caregiver. To be entrusted in the care of another human being can be one of the greatest privileges bestowed to us. Sure, there are going to be difficult days, but in the long run and especially after Caregiving has ended, you realize that the good days far outweigh the bad ones. Caregiving just happens. No one prepares to be a family Caregiver, and Caregiving is certainly not on any one’s bucket list. However, it is a role that most of us will find ourselves in at some point in our life. Embrace the role if you can, and if you can’t, be honest about that too.

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