How Resilient is Your Family?

As we live through the COVID-19 pandemic, we see cracks in how we support our partners and loved ones. Some couples divide the work so that only one of the partners knows all the passwords. Or, where the important papers are. Or, the typical things that go wrong in the house.

And, too few people have a living will or a health care proxy. (In the US, every state has its own laws. I suspect every country does, too.) A living will helps you discuss what could happen and how you want the medical staff to care for you.

I found these discussions quite difficult and quite necessary. Not just necessary for the coronavirus, but for the future. I wanted to relieve my family of having to make difficult decisions. How could they make ethical and moral decisions if they didn’t know what I wanted?

Let’s start with the normal resilience I recommend for “everyone” (defined later):

  • The living will and/or health care proxy. (Discuss now so no one has to make these challenging decisions alone and under pressure.)
  • House stuff: Learn the locations for the water shutoff, the gas pilot, the electrical box, and where your internet arrives in your home. What do you need to know to turn things off, turn them on, and/or reboot the internet?
  • A password manager so everyone can find all the passwords. (You should do this at work, too, but I’ll stick with home for now.) Mark and I share our passwords with 1Password.
  • The location of important papers, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, and more. If you keep these in a safe deposit box, the location of that box and the key(s).

Let’s discuss who “everyone” is.

Remove the Dependency on One Person

When only one person knows the locations of their “stuff,” no one else can help. We have risks in projects with a bus factor of 1. I suspect the risks are even greater with our families with a bus factor of 1. When the bus factor is one, our risks might become exponential.

You can reduce those risks when more people know. I advocate everyone, and you might have limits.

The older the people in your extended family, the more everyone else needs to know. Adult children and maybe adult grandchildren. For example, Mark and I know for my dad. Our children know for us.

I’m part of a relatively small extended family. We all fit in one room (when we’re allowed in one room)!

If you have a larger extended family, I recommend every one of one generation know for the previous generation. Does that seem like too much knowing? What if you don’t trust some of the later generation people?

Oh boy. I’m a big fan of transparency, so I would say discuss it. However, I don’t know your family. That might be too much transparency for you.

Here’s the principle: Remove the dependency on one person. Make sure at least one other person knows.

And, make sure you have a health care proxy and/or a living will. Do it now while everyone can discuss these issues. When we discuss the undiscussable, we remove the power or the fear that discussion has.

We can’t predict much with this virus, except to say it will circle the world. The virus will touch each of us. Let’s create resilient families, not just resilient workplaces.

That’s the question this week: How resilient is your family?

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