The care experts at Wellthy are the heart and soul of everything we do. They bring to life their passion for helping others by deeply understanding the needs of our member families, advocating for them, getting things done, and lending a friendly shoulder whenever needed.
With our Care Expert Spotlight series, we’re taking a peek into the lives of Wellthy's care professionals. They’ll share what caregiving means to them, their very own Wellthy story, and much more. This month we interviewed Stefany Pettinger, a Care Coordinator who has been with Wellthy for 2.5 years.
What is your personal caregiving story?
"My caregiving story starts with my mom. I was here in San Diego, and she was in upstate New York, diagnosed with lung cancer. I felt guilty that I couldn't do more and be there with her. At the time, I was a single mom, working three jobs, supporting five kids, and trying to hold it all together. Talking about the Sandwich Generation, I remember driving down the road and having three of the kids in the car. I was on the speaker on a call with my mom's Oncologist, making hard decisions about her treatment, while the kids were there in the car, hearing everything. It was too much trying to do all of the things, and now when I look back on that, I just wish there was something like Wellthy to help me navigate that. Of course, things are so different now. My mom did pass, and I'm now managing my stepfather's care from a distance with my step sister, through Wellthy. And it's just so different. We reach out to our Care Coordinator and ask for help with meal delivery or places for him to get his hearing aids checked. Now, I don't feel the weight of the world on my shoulders alone."
What do you love most about working as a Care Coordinator at Wellthy?
"It's definitely touching so many lives and making a positive impact. The relationships that are formed not only with the care recipients, but their families too, makes my everyday meaningful. I am always touched by how everybody from our member families is so appreciative of what we do and how much we're helping them navigate their caregiving situations."
What has the response been like from members when their employers started offering Wellthy?
"The response has always been so powerful. When members share their stories and I share how we can help them, I have heard them say, "I was really losing it before this call and I feel like I have hope now." In those trying moments, they often respond with, "Gosh! I'm not alone, somebody is hearing me, and it's gonna be okay." I have seen tears of relief at that point.
Wellthy members feel incredibly valued by their employers. Some of them jokingly share that they could never leave their jobs now because their family relies on Wellthy’s support, and this has been expressed many times. To them, losing access to Wellthy would be a huge blow. It does not surprise me when I often hear sentiments like, "We need you."
What is a typical day like for you as a Care Coordinator?
"As a Care Coordinator, there is no typical day. You wake up and you look through your messages, and then you kind of triage your day. The honest answer is, some days you might be finding a physical therapist, some others you might be looking at insurance plans and then there are some days, when a member's mom is being discharged from rehab today and it becomes a top priority to work through it all. As a Care Coordinator at Wellthy, every day is different, every day you're solving different riddles. And every day, you're just showing up for these (our caregiving) families in all different ways."
What advice would you give to a first-time caregiver?
"Being kind to yourself is very important and to not put your needs on the back burner. I'm reading a book called the 'Practice of Grounding' and it really speaks to the importance of nourishing your own roots first. In the book, they talk about the great Redwood trees and how they stand so much pressure from the winds and the weather elements. They do that through their root system which is very strong and well-nourished. It's through these roots that these trees and their branches can extend in many directions. And in terms of caregiving, it can reflect well on how we can nourish our roots. Practices like moments of solitude, going to our doctor's appointments, eating healthy, going for walks, exercising, and taking care of our root system first, can help us extend our branches and touch other's lives."
What is something about you not many people know?
“I was run over by a school bus! It was probably because my school bus driver was in his late 80s and I was a short kindergartener. I was walking in front of the bus, and I can remember running my hand along the grill and the bus started up. The wheels just kind of went on either side of me and knocked me down. It drove over, and I got up and went home crying, but fine.
Apart from this, I was encouraged by my manager at Wellthy to get my life coaching certificate and I did that! I have been volunteering since then. On Saturday mornings I visit my local domestic violence shelter and coach the women to find their strength and move forward. It's something I'm very passionate about and because of some of the things that my kids and I have been through I feel very motivated about paying it forward.”