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August 28, 2010

Colette Cote
Corporate External Communications
Twitter: @ColetteCote
Suffice it to say, I know something about the sandwich generation. As a full-time working, solo-flying parent who also served as the healthcare advocate for my terminally-ill father, I shudder to think of how life could have been these past couple of years without the support of friends, family and my employer. Yes, that’s right. My employer.

One of the best gifts my recently deceased father gave me was to have tended to his personal business, including not leaving me to have to make any of the hard end-of-life decisions when the time came. Certainly, the first time we addressed that big elephant in the room, it made for uncomfortable conversation. But, over the course of the years – and indeed, we were lucky to have the time to share these conversations – we talked openly and often about his preferences, wishes and desires.

Fortunately, I work for a progressive organization when it comes to offering work-life balance options to its employees. In addition to a flexible work schedule, Pitney Bowes provided me with access to valuable resources ranging from educational webinars regarding eldercare options, to legal and financial planning resources. We were able to legally document his wishes in terms of designating me as his healthcare proxy, his living will, etc. I dare not even contemplate how those final months could have been further complicated and stressful had we not “taken care of business.”

When what I now know as the “final 24 hours” came, I was peacefully -- without hesitation -- able to execute and, therefore, respect my father’s wishes. I knew what he wanted; I knew what he didn’t want. I was relieved from the burden of having to make any difficult choices and could start to focus on the grieving and healing process for me and my son.

And let's not neglect the wondrous benefits of those weekly Friday massages in our onsite wellness clinic. Definitely removes a nice slice of stress from this sandwich-er!

Last week, NPR’s Morning Edition aired a segment entitled, Firms Help Workers Provide End-Of-Life Care. The story includes additional testimony from a few of my peers, as well as insights from Dr. Brent Pawlecki, our pioneering corporate medical director who champions this important workplace issue.

So, if you haven't had those important conversations, or documented those wishes -- just do it. It's the best gift you'll give yourself and your loved ones.