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Lessons from 2021

It’s worth admitting: for many of us, 2021 was rough. People have been stressed, exhausted and angry. On a larger scale, not a month went by when it felt like the world wasn’t falling apart. Everywhere we look, it seems as though something else is going wrong. And we’re so overwhelmed by what came before, we feel unequipped to cope with new challenges. Indeed, some of us are still healing from 2020. Acknowledging the difficulties we’ve faced is the first step in learning how we can be better. We can never control the world around us, but we can learn from it and change accordingly.

This December, as Sage stands on the brink of a new year and reflects on the last one, we’re reminded of what we’ve learned, both from our service to the San Antonio area and from our own personal lives. As certified care managers, we interact with the oldest and most vulnerable cohort of the population. This means that our work can often carry with it substantial gratification and joy, but also a degree of emotional pain. In short, we’re used to saying goodbye. COVID-19 only amplified that reality, as we saw client deaths increase exponentionally. Meanwhile, loneliness and isolation–which was already its own epidemic pre-Covid–increased for our aging clients as well, particularly for those living in care facilities. What does this all point to? For twenty years, we’ve witnessed firsthand the kind of unique hardship endured by the aging population in this country. COVID-19 shone a spotlight on just how necessary it is to respect and advocate for those who are too easily overlooked and overshadowed in the constant movement and urgency of our culture. We can and need to do better for the ones who need us most, now more than ever.

This lesson, of course, doesn’t come without the recognition that those who care for the aging and infirm are humans with needs, too. Our team is comprised of people experienced in multiple forms of care, including care management, social work and nursing. We are well-versed in the healthcare system and all the ins and outs of making our clients lives better, no matter the challenge. We are experts in aging, but we get overwhelmed, too. With how much we care about our clients and the aging population, it can be easy to overlook–and even devalue–our own mental health. It seems counterintuitive that a care manager could so easily disregard the care of oneself. But that is the sad truth for many of us. With all the burdens and expectations of the past year, we’ve had to be honest and admit that when we fail to take care of ourselves, we can’t provide the standard of care to our clients that we’d like to. This means striving for more flexibility and grace with ourselves as we seek to improve the lives of others.

In addition to seeking higher standards of advocacy, both for the aging and for ourselves, the Sage team has learned the importance of stepping out of its comfort zone. If 2021 is any example, we can still be caught off guard by new challenges and obstacles, even after 20 years of operation. This is daunting, and there is always the temptation to shrink away, to call it quits. But our mission to the San Antonio area remains the same. The need for expert care management is greater than ever. We, as a company designed to serve the needs of the vulnerable, must ask ourselves: who will provide this care as well as we could if we were not here? Amy Kay, who joined the team in 2019, writes, “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘The fear may never go away, so you’re just going to have to do it scared.’ I have been stretched a lot, and I have had to do a lot of things scared. In return, I can feel my confidence slowly growing. It may be uncomfortable, but I’m learning that things are never quite as bad as my brain wants me to believe. And the discomfort is so worth it in the end.”

We, like all of you, have learned a lot in 2021, and we’re certain 2022 will teach us more. But we hope that one thing, at least, is evident: in spite of everything, our priority has always been and will continue to be our clients and the San Antonio community at large. The more we learn, the better we serve. And we are so proud to not only serve those who need us, but to grow alongside them as friends, family members and experts in aging. See you next year and Happy Holidays!

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