The How To Care Conversation Series: An Inspiring Take on How to Care for Others

Nurse Next Door

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At Nurse Next Door, we take immense pride in offering holistic support to our clients and, often, even their family members. However, the support doesn’t just stop there. We work hard to direct that supportive energy to everyone who works and interacts with Nurse Next Door. 

The positive impact we’ve seen from operating from this place of care is immeasurable, and now, our CEO Cathy Thorpe is shedding light on how she promotes this caring philosophy both at Nurse Next Door and in her personal life. We hope her words inspire you to take action in creating more positive interactions within your home, at work, and out into the world. 

Cathy Thorpe, Nurse Next Door CEO, sitting on a pink couch.

Cathy Thorpe, President & CEO of Nurse Next Door, wanted to have more candid and open conversations about aging and how to be a more caring person. She’s seen firsthand how a happier workplace contributes directly to caregivers’ and clients’ well-being and what it takes to create a culture of care.

So Cathy teamed up with Sarah Stockdale—founder of Growclass and the host of the Growth Effect podcast—to share her experienced take on how we as a society can care better for seniors, our coworkers, and everyone around us.

In the first four episodes of the How To Care Conversation Series, Cathy and Sarah discuss the state of the senior care industry, how to create a more caring workplace, and how to have difficult conversations with your loved ones.

Here is a recap of what you can expect to take away from each episode.

1. Unlocking Happier Aging™

This episode touches on Nurse Next Door’s philosophy of Happier Aging™: helping people do what they once loved but no longer get to do. 

  • Is it meeting friends for lunch? 
  • Going for a walk?
  • Or playing a round of tennis? 

It’s part of the caregiver’s role to find ways to bring joy and excitement into seniors’ lives, even if it’s a small gesture.

What should aging look like? 

Nurse Next Door Caregiver and client grocery shopping.
Most people would rather stay at home as long as possible, but it isn’t always in the cards. Happier Aging™ should take place anywhere, and Cathy wants to find out how to bring happiness and choice into people’s golden years wherever they are.

One simple way to help your loved ones age better is by having a conversation with them. If you’re thinking about their future, they’re likely thinking about it too. It’s better to plan ahead while they’re still well.

Caring builds the best foundation, not only for success in relationships but also for businesses. If you care, it means you’re always striving to do better.

It isn’t just about the clients; it’s also about supporting their caregivers as well. They play such an important role in society, and they deserve to be viewed as such. Caregiving isn’t just a job; it deserves security, respect, and a clear career path.

Impact needs to start from the top down. Leadership is more of a practice than a destination. We have to care about how we care. The workplace should be a fun environment where people can be self-led, where they feel they have space to make decisions, be innovative, and be creative.

Whether you work in an office or you’re starting to plan your parents’ Happier Aging™, a strong sense of purpose brings us all together.

Listen to the episode here!

What is the Happier Aging™ philosophy?

2. Talking About Death

Our time on earth is precious, but we often ignore the final chapter of a person’s life. The only way to improve the end of life is to talk about it. 

In this episode, Cathy opens up about losing her husband of 19 years. Harry lived with metastatic colon cancer for two years, and his incredible attitude brought hope to an otherwise difficult time.

“Hope was about living our lives and not letting cancer lead us,” said Cathy. “We led our lives, we led our happiness and joy, and yes, cancer was part of our life, but it didn’t define our life.”

Her conversations with Harry included talking about what was important to him. What do you need? How can I support you?

These were tough conversations to have. “Throughout his illness, he always had hope, and I never wanted to take hope away.

“I wanted to talk to him about what dreams he had for the kids and how I could make sure I honored that. I wanted to give him the opportunity to reflect on what he wanted.”

Two weeks before Harry passed away, he walked down to the water and sat on a bench with Cathy. “It brought such happiness to that day. To me, that was his Happier Aging™.”

Most people struggle to have these vulnerable end-of-life conversations. When we talk about Happier Aging™, this includes the very end. Cathy believes that you need to have messy moments and hard conversations, or you won’t experience these moments of joy and closure. 

As sad as it is, some people don’t make it to seniorhood. Have these conversations now. Live each day in the moment, and don’t leave anything unsaid. 

Listen to the episode here!

3. Leading From The Heart 

We’ve been conditioned to act a certain way at work. But it’s time to drop the facade and forget your ‘work persona’. Instead, Cathy believes that you should bring your whole self to the office—even the messy part. 

Caregiver with client at the park.

Cathy’s leadership dives into the importance of having honest but kind conversations with your team to getting to know each other on a deeper level. Cathy believes in Radical Candor by Kim Scott. This communication philosophy has been embedded into Nurse Next Door’s culture and is how we choose to lead and give feedback in the moment. 

It can be hard to give transparent feedback to your boss, so you need to make it safe for employees to challenge leadership or make suggestions. Cathy believes that leaders need to be willing to put their emotional energy into being vulnerable, too, which means asking for feedback and working to self-improve. 

Leaders who want the best out of their team need to bring their best to the team. But they should also show up as their whole messy selves, so their team feels safe doing it too.

Cathy believes that leaders don’t need to have the answers all the time. It can put you in a vulnerable position to say, “I don’t know,” or give others space to find the answer. When you always provide answers, you aren’t creating an environment for people to think on their own. 

Can you make sure people feel comfortable with both success and failure as a possibility? 

This is how you create a culture of innovation: where no one is afraid to push and take risks. This is what Nurse Next Door believes in. 

Besides, when the team can make decisions and innovate, leaders have more space to look at possibilities for the future instead of getting caught up in their team members’ day-to-day. Be curious and ask thoughtful questions.

In the second half of this episode, Susan Karda (VP of Operations at Nurse Next Door) talks about how the company culture has impacted her life at work and beyond.

“We created our people promise, and the first line is “you love coming to work.” Everything else after that doesn’t matter. If I love coming to work, and my team and our Franchise Partners and caregivers love coming to work, and it reaches our clients and their families, it’s a pretty beautiful thing.”

Listen to the episode here!

4. From Cathy’s Couch

In this “Dear Cathy” style episode, Cathy answers a few questions from team members with workplace questions. She gives her best advice on what compassionate leadership should look like in practice.

1. “I have one team member who ignores feedback. Nothing changes, and it’s impacting the team.”

Cathy asks about the team’s ability to give feedback. It isn’t always solely the manager’s role to give feedback. 

How are team members holding each other accountable? Peer feedback is highly effective, and you should empower your team to provide feedback too.

Is this person self-led? They have to be willing to put in the work and not need someone to tell them what to do. They aren’t self-led if they’ve created an uncomfortable position on the team where people don’t feel that they can say things to this person. 

What’s their attitude, energy, and body language? Is there a root cause for not absorbing the feedback? If you come from a place of honesty and curiosity and you have a deep conversation with the team member, you’ll find the root cause. You have to say it all—you can’t hold back.

2. “I keep having to finish their projects for them. How do I encourage them to complete their work?”

Cathy recommends reading “The One Minute Manager” and “The One Minute Manager Meets The Monkey.” This manager is putting the monkey—a.k.a. the work—on their own shoulders. 

The second you take on someone else’s work, you aren’t effectively delegating or leading. You’ll then get overwhelmed with your own workload. While you may think you’re being a helpful person, the real root cause is ineffective delegating.

Set boundaries. You won’t scale a business with a micromanaging mindset. People also have to feel like they have the space to do things, including completing projects to a certain standard. We need to also teach team members to ‘manage up,’ which means helping their leaders to lead them better.

3. “My manager’s feedback sometimes feels like bullying. They can be critical of the smallest details even before I’ve finished my work. How do I have this conversation?”

This manager hasn’t built a relationship where the team member can say what they need to create the environment they need. Cathy encourages them to get to know their boss as a person. Can they see that they care? Do they feel comfortable asking them for space to do their job? 

The expression “You don’t quit the company; you quit your boss” comes to mind here. 

4. “I recently posted a job vacancy for a mid-level position. A junior employee applied, but I don’t think they’re qualified. They’re great in their current position, and I worry they’ll question their role at the company if I don’t offer them an interview. I don’t want to lose them.”

Cathy says this manager should’ve already had their finger on the pulse of what this employee is looking for in their career. 

She encourages this person to interview the junior employee. “You shouldn’t already be judging what they can or can’t do. And if you aren’t looking at career opportunities for them, you may need to accept the fact that you will lose them.”

People want to continue learning and growing either in their current role or a different one. It’s on you, the leader, to create an environment where people can develop and get excited about opportunities. 

5. “An employee on my team has so much potential but lacks certain skills. I’m a new manager, and I’m not sure how to develop them into a great leader.”

You don’t know that they’ll be a great leader if you haven’t seen them do it yet. “Being eager and excited isn’t leadership,” says Cathy. They’re showing they’re a self-led person, but now you need to train them and give them space to show leadership skills. 

You start to see someone’s impact on others when others are talking about how awesome that person is. You hear about how they helped and encouraged others, and you see and feel that energy. You often get feedback on great leaders from those who are impacted around them.

6. “A recent project was a complete bust. A beloved teammate quit afterward, and I’m afraid to be blamed as the manager. How do you recommend coming back from failure?”

Cathy believes innovation only happens when you have a culture that makes space for failure—where people aren’t afraid to lose their job because they failed. 

People should feel empowered to try new things. Some will work, and some will not. Be curious. Curiosity allows for innovation and change, and you can advance your workplace with that mindset.

Older couple with Nurse Next Door Caregiver

We need to shift the business world to be a place of compassion and kindness. Great leaders are focused on more than just business outcomes: they’re focused on people. A lot goes on behind what you see in people at work. If you aren’t a curious leader, you’ll lose those people. Ask good questions and really listen to the answers. 

Listen to the episode here!

If all these tips feel daunting to implement at once, just remember that the most important piece is: the practice of self-compassion. If we all start with creating more self-care opportunities for ourselves, we will be better equipped to take steps, even small, to care more for others—even if sometimes we don’t quite get it right the first time or can only do one thing at a time. 

Create the intention and let that grow. Over time, small positive gains, collectively, will vastly impact our personal connections, the workplace, and beyond. 

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