Archive for November, 2012

The presence of a paycheck

November 25, 2012

From the time I was 16 years old until the present day, I have been unemployed for maybe a total of 6 months . . . and I’m, like, eleventy three forty-one years old or so. For some unknown reason, I have been blessed with this uncanny ability to not only find and keep a job, but I usually have two or three jobs.

Right now, I have three paying jobs. I have a full time career position in health communications. I teach as adjunct faculty at a community college. And, I am the editor for Loyola University’s Meaning Making blog. The full time job takes 40 hours a week. Being adjunct faculty takes about 7 hours a week. My editing job takes maybe 3 to 5 hours. These are all jobs that I enjoy very much.

I did not always enjoy my jobs. To put myself through college and graduate school, I did medical transcription. I made enough money but it was laborious work occasionally sprinkled with sorrowful anecdotes that continue to haunt me. For example, one emergency room doctor referred to motor cycles as “donor cycles” because the accident victims tend to be healthy young men who are dying of head injuries while the rest of their internal organs are intact. I was not sorry to let that job go.

Today’s job market makes me nervous, even with what seems to be as secure employment and credentials as anyone could have. There are segments of our population that are extremely vulnerable when unemployed. One of those groups includes people ages 50-65, and eleventy three forty-one falls within that age group. When these people lose their jobs, they generally also lose their health insurance. This is the age group when high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure begin to make their presence known. Untreated, these chronic diseases cause all sorts of silent damage to your body. Without a paycheck or health insurance, the unemployed are probably not going to get their blood sugar or cholesterol checked. They might have their blood pressure checked. Heck, that’s free at any drug store. One thing is for certain: even if it is high, without a paycheck or health insurance, they are not going to get a medication to lower it. Their only option is to change their lifestyle, eating habits, exercise, and all that.

Here’s another bit of bad news: by the time someone reaches age 50, his or her habits are pretty well established. Very few people are motivated enough to change behaviors when something REALLY bad happens like a heart attack. Almost no one changes their behaviors because their blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure are a little high.

The worst news is that these chronic diseases will continue to affect that person’s body in ways that won’t become apparent until that first heart attack or until blindness sets in or until there is a sore that won’t heal or a stroke or a blood clot. Chances are, though, this person will make it to age 65, be eligible for Medicare, and finally get treatment. But the damage that has been done can’t be undone.

This isn’t news to anyone. It is basic public health principles. We’ve known it for a long, long time. My new piece over at Meaning Making this month is about pastoral care and career counseling, especially for those people who are unemployed and over the age of 50. I am blessed to count myself on the money-making side of the population and often feel quite helpless trying to help others produce a paycheck. Yet, the other side keeps coming back, week after week, and they thank me each and every time.

No, I say, thank you. You are helping me stay real with God.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass