I never burned a bra, the underwires were so hard to light with a Bic but I have quietly fought against the glass ceiling for all of my adult life.  I remember in my early career complaining to management that the other executive at my level was male and made 40% more than I.  The boss looked stunned at my ignorance when he responded flippantly, “Well of course he does, he’s a guy”.  Laws were there to protect me at the time.  But I feared losing my job and being tainted for future opportunities.  I stayed on and I’ve done OK. 

I’m not a rabid Hillary Clinton fan.  She angered me when she tried to make health care mandatory for all part-time employees back in the 90’s and I was a struggling business owner.   Her plan would have put me out of business.  But I found the March 14th Newsweek article, The Hillary Doctrine most compelling particularly side-bar Gender Matrix.

Here are some of the facts assembled by or extrapolated from the data collected by the World Economic Forum: 

  1. Educating a girl one year beyond the national average boosts her earning power between 10 and 20 percent
  2.  Countries with higher levels of female secondary-school enrollment have lower infant mortality, lower rates of HIV and AIDS infection, and better child nutrition.
  3. The WEF 2011 Gender Gap Index shows that a nation’s prosperity correlates with the level of parity between women and men (in education, health, economic opportunity, and political empowerment).   Countries with the smallest gaps in 2010 were Iceland, Norway and Finland.  Pakistan, Chad and Yeman had the largest.
  4. According to the WEF, the U.S. could boost its GDP by as much as 9 percent by putting more women in leadership positions in business and government and working harder to correct pay inequities.
  5. Women still only earn 77% of their male counterparts for equal work.
  6. In the Asia-Pacific region, countries are losing between $42 billion and $46 billion a year, according to the WEF by restricting women’s access to the workforce.
  7. When women earn their own money, they spend on their families at more than twice the rate of men.
  8. Worldwide, companies perform better and produce better ideas when their highest ranks have gender diversity.
  9. And from another source:  The first woman to rule a country as an elected leader in the modern era was   Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, who was elected as prime minister of the island nation in 1960 and later re-elected in 1970.    It is interesting that Sri Lanka ranked ahead of the U.S. in the 2010 WEF analysis.
  10. And from my own personal experience:  Women with whom I have worked are frequently more tactile (feelers), men more visual or auditory.  Decisions that are made with the input of both genders and several generations tend to be more thoughtful, fair and enduring.

Please share your thoughts with me..



Consider this scenario:  You’ve gotten a frantic phone call from your elderly parent who, returning from a 10-day cruise, broke her hip and is in a distant hospital room recovering from surgery.  Her nurse just warned her that her health care insurance coverage expires tomorrow, and wants to know where mom wants to be transferred.  You’re completely unprepared for this and panic sets in.  What do you do?

This is hypothetical, of course, but the fact is that more than 80 percent of us will be in a similar situation at some point.  A parent, spouse, sibling or child will experience a fall, stroke, heart attack or some other traumatic episode and after a short hospital stay to stabilize their condition, hospital personnel (and/or the insurance provider) tell you to “make other arrangements.”  Returning home is often not an option because the physician has concluded that the patient needs some level of care to perform basic life functions.  Consequently, a rehabilitative, transitional or perhaps permanent care facility must be found.  The placement depends on availability, cost, needed therapies and geographic location. 

“Help!”  Assistance is available from both paid and unpaid advisers but you need to prepare and implement an action plan almost immediately—despite the fact that you know little or nothing about the health care system.  Adding to the crisis may be the resistance or confusion of the patient who wants desperately to go home. 

Here’s help.  I’ve prepared a short checklist of items to help you make an informed decision.  Take a deep breath and do some research.  Most hospitals offer lists of qualified facilities and employ nurses or social workers to advise you.  These individuals often do not impose their preferences but they may know current availability and their list will give you a starting point. 

Search our housing directory for alternatives using the criteria suggested by the hospital staff.  Most of the care that is necessary immediately after a hospital stay involves specific therapies (e.g., speech, physical, cognitive) and time to heal, and their availability is essential to a positive outcome. 

·       Actively involve the patient in the decision.  Their greatest fear is likely a loss of control.  They may also view a long-term health facility as a death sentence even if the facility has “rehabilitative” or “transitional” in its name.  Involvement will result in less resistance and a more positive result.

·       Ask lots of questions of the physician, the nursing and other hospital staff.   Don’t forget to ask the patient questions, too.  You need to get objective answers about what is needed to achieve the most positive outcome.  Change is difficult both physically and emotionally.  Moving a person from one facility to another can be devastating.  But frequent moves may be the result of poor selections made with little or incorrect information. 

·       Transitional and rehabilitative facilities require that the patient has certain physical and cognitive ability levels upon admission; improvement in those areas is charted at frequent intervals.  One of our dear friends has undergone two moves since being stricken with a massive stroke, because she failed to make the necessary progress in her recovery. 

·       Search with your senses.  Nothing takes the place of physically visiting a facility in advance of placement.  What do you see when you visit?  Is it clean and bright? It need not be new.  Frequently—unfortunately--décor is substituted for care.  Are members the staff visibly engaged in caring for the residents?  What do you hear?  Silence for me is a red flag in some facilities.  It certainly depends on the type of facility but it sometimes signals the overuse of antipsychotic drugs to quiet the population.  What do you smell?  Is it urine?  Stale food?  It should smell like home.  

·       Ask about food choices and taste something from that day’s menu.  One of the serious problems that patients encounter is a loss of strength because they fail (or refuse) to eat.  The problem may be that the quality of the food doesn’t satisfy a patient who is a good cook or has a particular love for good food.

·       Be visible.  Visit often for the sake of the patient.  Your visits are important for the companionship and love that they provide, but they have another purpose.  Most facilities are understaffed.  Staff ratios of seven or eight patients to one care provider make it difficult for that care provider to give sufficient attention to any one patient.  But humans tend to perform better when they know they are being observed.  I have no proof to support this statement, but I have observed that staff communicates with those patients whose family and friends are frequently present.  One of our friends found that bringing a box of candy or a bouquet of flowers as a thank you gift to the staff a good idea.  We don’t say “thank you” enough and most of us respond positively when we are told we’ve done a good job. 

·       Be positive and encouraging.  Illness often results in depression.  Prolonged rehabilitation can be very discouraging when positive results are in short supply. 

·       Review our Toolkit chapter for additional tips and specific questions you might use when searching for facilities by phone or in person.  


Now that you have experienced how difficult a task this is perhaps you could take a moment to make a list of what you have learned and what your wishes would be should you find yourself in the same situation.


 
I just got off the phone with my friend Mollie.  You’d like Mollie.    She’s beautiful, talented (musically gifted), funny, fit, has a great marriage and is a terrific mom.  You would probably never guess she spent 25 years of her life with a binge eating disorder.  But she did and this is her story.

Mollie remembers that at around age 12 her gymnastics coach suggested it might be better if she lost five pounds or so. Lots of people in her extended family had problems controlling their weight.  Her mom – a fabulous cook – put on weight easily and was vigilant about diet and exercise.  Her older sister had a medical condition that  produced muscle in abnormal amounts and prohibited the type and amount of exercise she could do and still retain a feminine form.

Mollie remembers that early on, from a variety of sources, she acquired the belief that only thin women “could get a man”,  or “a good job”,  or  “the audition for the musical.”  No one is specifically to blame for this: the message is everywhere.

That first diet introduced her to a sense of control.  She lost the weight but then put it back on, then lost it and put it back on (plus a couple of extra pounds).  Mollie has never been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder but she and some of her friends, believe she is a classic case.  She never does anything at a “C” level.  It’s  “A+” or nothing.  For those of you who strive for perfection in all that you do, you know how difficult it is to achieve, let alone sustain, that standard.

From her early teenage years Mollie remembers binging.  She would take a box if cereal to her room and eat it all.  She was literally a closet eater.  She never over overindulged in front of others; she actually sat on the closet floor stuffing herself, hidden from the outside world.  When she lived on her own she would buy a half- gallon of ice cream and make malts. She points out that she didn’t own a freezer so, of course, she had to consume it all in one sitting.  Or, she would order take out, not from one, but from all her favorite restaurants and eat until she contemplated a visit to an emergency room.  She couldn’t stand or bend and could only breathe if she was prone, physically in pain and wondering if her stomach would burst.

Had this been her only extreme she would likely have weighed 500 pounds.  But, there were the alternating diet phases.  She would exercise three times a day.  She tried every diet ever conceived (including prolonged fasting for as long as 30 days).  She remembers her tea and cigarette diet with particular horror.  I asked if she ever purged.  She said she has always been terrified of throwing up, couldn’t do it even with a bad case of stomach flu.  Mollie believes that if she had combined purging with binging she would likely be dead.

Eating for her was never normal.  She always thought about food.  When she was binging she felt terrible shame and guilt.  Her self- talk was all about “If only I were thin...then I’d be happy, have a great job, a wonderful relationship…but I’m such a failure.” When she was dieting and exercising obsessively she thought only of the specific food she would eat as soon as she hit the magic number. 

I asked if she was ever happy.  She remembers once feeling happy for about two hours.  She competed in a grueling fitness competition several years ago that required a brutal regime of exercise, diet and discipline.  There was a sizable monetary prize for the winner and Mollie, the consummate overachiever, focused on being number one. After 90 days she placed in the top 10 our of more than 20,000 contestants.  “I was incredibly fit and proud of myself for what I had achieved.”    But the  “happiness” drifted away within a couple of hours and was replaced by the overwhelming desire to eat her favorite food and then by the guilt and shame that followed overconsumption.

There is a happy ending to this story.  Mollie met Paul in her late 30’s.  She had pretty much given up on finding the perfect mate but there he was.  As the relationship progressed and she knew that she loved this man, she felt she had to share this terrible secret.  His reaction was.  “That’s all????”   Mollie felt an immediate lifting of the guilt and shame accompanied by the fading of “food” thoughts.   

“It wasn’t miraculous but close.  I still had bouts but they were far less frequent.  Recently, when I was pregnant with my first child, my friends told me how hard it was to lose weight after the birth and I was scared the old habits would return”.

The baby came and the weight came off with exercise and good food choices.  The old habits did not return.  When I asked her about how she views food now, she laughed.  “Paul and I love to eat but there is balance in our lives.  We go all out when it comes to food and eating.  When we travel, we plan entire trips around the restaurants we will visit.  But the next week we ramp up our exercise and eat a little ‘cleaner’ and we get right back to normal.  The key is that it is never guilt–laden.  It’s more like a game”.    I asked if she is happy now.  “Happier than I could ever have imagined.  I have a great husband, a beautiful child and a fulfilling life.”  Mollie credits Paul’s acceptance and the experience of motherhood as the stepping-stones to her healing.

I am a huge proponent of volunteerism.  For the past few years, one of the organizations to which I belong, has participated in Hearts and Hammers.  It is sort of a mini-Extreme Makeover.  The Hearts and Hammers organization interviews needy homeowners who, for financial or physical reasons, cannot manage the upkeep of their home.  One Saturday morning each September 40+ volunteers descend on their assigned home and completely repair and paint the exterior and totally re-landscape the yard of a chosen recipient.    Hearts and Hammers has concentrated on two blighted neighborhoods in our community for the past two years and the transformation is beginning to have a dramatic impact.  I thought you might enjoy viewing the video from last week’s event.  When we began it was raining and cold.  We’d brought spare siding, plants and paint but the 100 year old home needs far more than we had anticipated. 

 

I dedicate a couple of hours each week to give back to my community and my church for all that they have given to me.  I strongly encourage you to do the same.  I guarantee you will be given back far more than you give, you will feel a joy that comes with almost no other gift giving and you will set an example for other family members, neighbors and especially your children and grandchildren.  As a matter of fact, take them with you.  If you can’t find an organization that appeals to you, call nursing homes, hospitals or just start your own!



 




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