There’s a common saying in management: don’t let a good crisis go to waste. And it certainly applies to the pandemic. While many of us are unable to contribute directly to a cure, we can certainly take valuable lessons from this period of turmoil.
One area that deserves greater attention is health. Not only in terms of COVID-19 itself but our health needs and practices in general. Historically, we live longer, but are we living better? And are we better prepared to handle situations in which a family member falls ill?
Inequality of health
Modern times have seen us reap the benefits of steady advances in the field of medicine. The average life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900. As a result, one could argue that we’re enjoying our lives more than ever.
However, the benefits aren’t uniformly distributed. People live much longer in developed countries compared to poor ones. And within the population of an affluent, industrialized nation such as the US, inequalities persist.
The wealthiest Americans will be able to live comfortably. They have money set aside for emergencies and long-term retirement needs. In addition to financial security, they are more likely to have invested in their health and well-being. And the rich can also afford to pay for better healthcare.
By contrast, middle-income or lower households tend to live from paycheck to paycheck more than ever. With such a small margin for financial error, they tend to be more susceptible to the adverse impact of health problems and related expenses.
Too much short-termism
In difficult times, it’s easy to put urgent concerns first. Paying rent and putting food on the table are obvious needs. But we also tend to spend on non-essential things. Online shopping and leisure activities offer diversions from the stress and anxiety of the present.
When it comes to health, it’s easier to defer both costs and worries. After all, youth can often compensate for poor habits. While you still feel strong, you tend not to notice the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, consuming too much junk food, or abusing substances like alcohol or nicotine.
Thus, short-term thinking plays a major role in this negative spiral of factors. The inequality of wealth leads to more people being unable to take better care of themselves and thinking only about the needs of the present. In turn, this favors an unhealthy lifestyle, hastening the deterioration of one’s health and the weight of associated costs.
A traditional solution
Since the problem of lowered health standards is multi-faceted, there are multiple angles from which it can be addressed. You could work to improve your finances, for instance. Or you could start to exercise, follow a balanced diet, and cut harmful substances or influences out of your lifestyle.
All of these approaches can be helpful, and working on different facets in a concerted effort is the best overall approach. But it does little good for a household in which someone is already suffering from illness or health problems.
Traditional societies can offer an alternative solution. In these networks, extended family members and neighbors will pitch in to take care of children and elders. It’s an option that has often gone ignored in the developed world as individuals focus on their careers, establishing nuclear families at most. But it’s one that is slowly being rediscovered; millennials, for instance, are increasingly serving as caregivers for their grandparents.
Preparing to be a caregiver
While affordable healthcare remains out of reach due to financial issues, more households will benefit from having at least one member serve as an effective caregiver. And being a part of the family gives you some advantages compared to a professional, such as an established emotional connection with the patient.
But you can do a better job in this role by stepping up in certain skills. Organization and cleanliness around the house are essential. Effective communication will help you stay attuned to the slightest changes in their condition while providing constant reassurance and empathy. Better time management allows you to focus on your loved one while maintaining balance and some space for yourself.
This is particularly relevant in the age of COVID-19. A case study on the impact of rare diseases showed that patients aren’t the only ones to suffer. Their caregivers also had to deal with anxiety and often forfeited career or educational opportunities.
Our new reality will be filled with uncertainty, economic challenges, and the threat of sickness. It’s hard enough when one family member goes down. If you’re going to step into the role of caregiver, be sure to take care of your own health and well-being.