Out of the rubble of daily life as we knew it, something new is emerging.
In my former life as a techie, I spent about twenty years off and on, working and managing technical writing projects online. Most of that time I was at AT&T, a place you’d expect to support remote work, given that it uses their products to function. That was true, except for a couple of unenlightened managers I knew. Our district manager Rick (the “P” was silent) was a former sales manager from Arizona, and he was against telecommuting. Too much abuse, he said. He would know. We didn’t get along, and I started to look around for a new job.
I happened to call Joe, an old boss, for a recommendation, and he asked if I’d be interested in a project he was staffing. It was a new product and service, called PersonaLink, based on technology from a Silicon Valley company, General Magic. Joe needed online documentation for the operations center that would run the service connecting the personal communication devices. I told him I would, and in a short time I said goodbye to Rick and began work on a new, secret development team. That whole project is another story. My point is that in 1993 I was working full time on product development with one day a week in the office and the rest of the time at home. I hired four or five writers and we began developing documentation for the service. I won’t go into detail about that. If you really want a deep dive, you can get it here.
Over the next few years I worked for a variety of tech companies, some onsite, some remote. I preferred remote. It was much more convenient for me, and I was adapted to it. Then in 2012, after 45 years working in high tech, I retired to take on a low tech job: caregiving for my wife with Alzheimer’s. I learned a lot about life, love, myself, and her in the process—some things I avoided when I was around computers most of the time.
The year is 2020. I was a member of an Alzheimer’s spouse support group then, the husbands and wives of people with dementia who met weekly to talk out their problems and frustrations, seek and offer advice. By then I was one to offer advice to newer members, and I saw that as my role. I was a widower for two years, learning to handle a new life, a new relationship, and then the hammer dropped: a pandemic. We all depended on those weekly meetings. For some of us, it was the only outlet from the endless duties of a caregiver. So we went online.
I delved into ways of setting up a weekly online meeting for the group, and came up with a Zoom account and a method. Remember, most people affected by dementia are not young. We’re old. A lot of us have never used a computer, and now we’re depending on it for a very important part of our life. I was happy to meet the need. The members who attend the ongoing meeting are starting to depend on it. We just had a discussion about what to do when conditions allow us to go back to face-to-face meetings, and everyone wanted to continue the online meeting. I suspect the same thing will happen to others once they realize the convenience of the online forum.
Not everyone has the same restrictions on their time as personal caregivers who spend every day, all day and night looking after a loved one. For them, as once it was for me, it is vital to be able to meet the need for social contact, sharing problems, and venting without having to hire or arrange for someone to cover while they go out. Sometimes it can be dicey, when the spouse walks in during a meeting and wants to know what’s happening. One or two members use headphones and type into the chat box so their conversation isn’t overheard. We adapt.
Ironically, between writing and zooming, some days I spend as much time on the computer now as I did when I was working full time, and my schedule is filling up with online weekly, monthly, and ad hoc meetings. That’s a dramatic change in a couple of months from being a semi-recluse taking care of my wife.