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 Sarah Soman, Sterling Administration‘s Director of Operations.
Q: Tell us about your background.
My work life started out in fitness. I had been a director of operations at a few fitness clubs. Then after I had my kids, I took some time off to take care of my family. We knew it was going to be a financial stretch, but decided it was worth it.
Q: How did you wind up at Sterling?
After a couple of years, being the type A person that I am, it became clear that I needed to find some work. My youngest had started attending a little co-op preschool, so I had a couple of days free and I found a part-time job working for a TPA, a third party administrator that dealt with flexible spending accounts, something that Sterling does. I started out working 5 hours a week and two years later was running the company, soup to nuts.
Twelve years later after another break, I heard about the job at Sterling, (Amazing Care Network’s parent company). I called, interviewed and started a week later. That was 2010, and I started as a client service specialist…dealing with the clients for our flexible spending accounts and health reimbursement arrangement products. Years later, when Cora started the Amazing Care Network, I was intrigued and wanted to learn all about it and so I became a member.
Q: What were your first impressions of Amazing Care Network?
I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but I liked the idea of setting aside some money every month, dedicated to future needs around caregiving. And then I went to the first tea and the topics really spoke to me. The focus was how to manage helping family when you’re so far away. And I thought, ‘this is me.’ I am 3,000 miles away from my family. Part of that discussion was how family members support other family members at a distance. One thing that struck me was, ‘Wow, will my kids be called upon to be caregivers for any of my siblings?’ I’m one of 8 kids, and I’d never thought of that before. Ever. I guess I have always imagined that my husband and I will take care of ourselves; we’ll put things in place and go into the old folks home if we need to and hopefully we’ll plan and have money available. But that meeting really made me start to think…what happens to my other family members? Ones who don’t have their own kids. So that was an eye-opener.
Q: Tell us about something you’ve learned from ACN.
One of the speakers at a tea once was talking about her mom on the east coast and how to set up communication, when something goes wrong, or when issues around their caregiving might be complex, or just harder to deal with because they’re so far away. That spoke to me too, because I lost both of my parents to cancer. They were both on the east coast. When you’re 3,000 miles away, you can serve two roles. First, you can do a lot of research. The other thing is, you can make yourself available to swoop in when you sense that the local family members need a break. It’s kind of the most you can do when you’re 3,000 miles away. Unexpected things come up, and being able to deal with them is often an expensive proposition. The price of a plane ticket is not always accessible for everyone.
Those experiences were wake-up calls for me and have got me thinking, I need to start thinking a little bit more about down the road. The distance part I really understood, but what I hadn’t started to think about was whether my kids will have to play a part, potentially, in the care of some of my siblings. I’m not sure yet how to move forward and address that. I like to believe that we still have some time before something like that might happen. But you never know.
At the next Amazing Care meeting I attended, the speaker talked about medications and how sometimes, different doctors are prescribing different medications and it’s not necessarily well coordinated. That can be the cause of all kinds of problems. I thought about my in-laws, and wondered who is tracking their prescriptions, and will we need to step in and help? So, starting to think about being aware of when we might need to help in those ways.
Each Amazing Care Network meeting has really opened my eyes and helped me start to think about issues that aren’t necessarily normal topics of conversation in our day to day. I’ve really started to see how the network can be helpful. I’m extremely independent and it’s not necessarily easy for me to ask for help.
Q: Talk about something about ACN that has surprised you.
About a year ago, one of our coworker’s father died. That was the first time that there was a communication at the company letting people know what had happened and also letting us know that if they wanted to help, we could so through her Amazing Care account. It’s easy to immediately pitch in and help, moving some money from my account to another person’s. That really sung to me.
When you are dealing with a death, or an accident, or anytime that someone is in the hospital, people don’t think about the money you have to spend commuting to and from the hospital, or that you’re eating all your meals out, and everything that you do normally is now so much more expensive. Well it just made sense to mePeople need money in these situations. And I can help.”
Q: Do you think ACN is a fit for younger people?
A whole younger generation may not necessarily be thinking about end of life care, but they ARE very aware of their coworkers and friends who have had surgery or may be needing to deal with family emergencies. Maybe they’re taking time off and they’re out of paid time off, and we can move some funds to help them.
The ideas of Amazing Care have touched me in a lot of different ways. I feel like each one of the meetings I go to, I discover another slice of the pie. Each generation has different needs. I’m really looking forward to learning what the next Amazing Care topic is going to be. And I want to include more of my friends and extended family in building the network. Our network.