As part of a lifestyle and aging series, we’re working with renowned photographer Terry Lorant to showcase inspirational leaders in the industry. Each month, we’ll feature one or a few inspirational member(s) of the Amazing Care Network community who is using his or her voice to empower others in the collective aging experience. Read, in their own words, what the Amazing Care Network’s efforts mean to them.

This month we’re proud to feature ACN Member, Pat Loo.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your work history and how you came to know about Amazing Care?

PL: My profession is as a labor leader. I started my career in 1971 as a meat cutter at one of the retail stores here. I did that for 19 years and then in 1990 I was honored to be voted in as Union President for a first three-year term.  The Federal government requires labor leaders to have an election every three years. I’ll start my 11th term in January.

I don’t really call it a career; it’s a choice. It’s a commitment that you make and it’s not always easy. I believe that the working class should have a voice. From the employer/company’s point of view, “without us all of your members wouldn’t have jobs.” True enough. But on the other hand, “without the workers, you would not have a business.” So, nobody’s kidding anybody here. But that’s the area where we work. We want to do business and they want to treat their employees or members fairly.

After the 2008 financial meltdown, employer assets were reduced, and the assets in our negotiated pensions were reduced.  So, how do we get to a safe place without killing the goose that lays the golden egg? We have to address the working class so that they can get ahead, pay for childcare, put food on the table, and pay to send their children to good schools That’s the commitment that I made a long time ago…trying to move the dial for the betterment of the working class.

Here’s a thing that kind of surprises me: about 70% to 80% of people are at one period of time or another stuck in a job that they don’t really like, for whatever reason, be it due to their education or the choices available to them. Part of our role I fill, is to try to lessen that burden, and address issues like healthcare, wage stability and so forth. To help make life a little better at a basic level. In the case of medical insurance, we negotiate for 100% coverage for all of our members. We have slightly over 2600 throughout the state. Our core industry is grocery. If you look at our organization at large, it’s about 1.3 million members throughout the United States and Canada.

I feel honored to be in this role for 30 years. Every three years the job is up for election. It’s a report card from the membership that says whether they feel that you’re doing a good job or not. Membership is funny. It’s like human nature; it’s always “what have you done for me lately?” We try to look at working conditions and improve wages, pensions, healthcare, and others. There are several component parts to this job: the business, the representation, the human touch/communication aspect. It’s a juggling act, and you have to know the jungle you’re in and to know your limitations.  Never promise something you can’t deliver. So that’s in a nutshell where I came from and what my work is.

Several years ago, while I was serving on the board of ACHA, I met Cora and she introduced me to the ideas of Amazing Care Network. They have tea times here every quarter in different places. Once I learned about the idea, I wanted to get our office involved so I put out a challenge.  I said, I’ll put in $549 from my own vacation fund if you will commit $25 a month to your ACN savings account. I kind of got my group motivated to go ahead and participate.

I was introduced to Amazing Care around the time that I was dealing with my father-in-law going through Hospice and all of the care that goes along with that.  I don’t think anybody realizes until you’re in it. There is no how-to book out there. But Cora and Amazing Care have developed tools that help walk you through it, and give you a way to think about some things — such as retrofitting a house for an elderly person. Also, questions that help you focus on how you, yourself, want to live in your later years as you move from totally independent to semi-independent to possibly needing a care home and then the next phases of life. I thought that was extraordinary. We’re now in an era, with the longevity of life, where it’s not at all unusual for 70 year-olds to be taking care of their parents.

A unique thing about Amazing Care is how it helps prepare you and encourages you to take the time to look and listen and learn about options. I know that it helped me when I had the opportunity to care for my father-in-law. And then, I was able to share some of those experiences with some of our members. One of our board members told me: “I remember you telling me the stories about your father-in-law, and now I’m doing the same thing, from the bathing, to the care and feeding, to the changing…my life is completely different because of these responsibilities.” And it’s a lot more difficult when there is no family network, and the total burden is all on you.

Our culture is changing. Now, more and more people are struggling with the choice between whether to go to work and pay the mortgage, or leave work to care for mom or dad with a completely different set of problems. Part of it is the worrying: “am I a bad child because I don’t do this or can’t manage this care giving responsibility?” but there are complications if you choose to do it. And it’s compounded if you’re a single parent, or don’t have siblings.

Amazing Care helps walk you through many of the things that you wouldn’t normally think of but that will happen, and how to think about dealing with them. The talks and presentations by professionals at the tea times are really useful.

It’s sort of like our motto here. We are Union today preparing for the needs of tomorrow. I’m trying to help our members prepare today for the needs of their parents or themselves or other family members tomorrow.

There are going to be challenges, but Amazing Care gives you tools, and a heads up for what needs to be done to resolve issues that are going to come up.  We can become better problem solvers when we engage in taking care of these issues.

One of the things that I didn’t understand and it’s very difficult when you’re close to someone because you don’t see it…I would find myself getting frustrated and angry at what my father-in-law could no longer do. One of the tea time discussions talked about this…about the receptors in your brain, and how they work when you’re young, and how that changes physically when you get older.  There are connections that just aren’t being made.  That was profound for me. You can’t be angry with someone when their connections just aren’t lining up anymore. But it’s hard, when you’ve known someone at their best and then in a state of real decline. It’s frustrating. But to recognize a little bit more what’s happening will help your sanity, and it’s better for them.

I’ve been to enough Amazing Care tea times now that I think it’s made me a better person.

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