All the years I traveled for work, my mom was the one who helped take care of the kids. Roles flipped when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2018 and I took on the primary responsibility of taking care of her. As a Territory Sales Manager in my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, I have a lot of flexibility to balance my workday with the responsibilities of being a caregiver and the ability to go when I need to check on my mom.
Altria has been wonderful. When AGDC pulled us back from the field due to COVID-19, they were prioritizing our safety first and that meant the world to me. I didn't have to keep going into retail every day and risk contracting COVID-19 or bringing it home to my mom. Even now, as the field opens back up, the company sent out a survey and I opted not to return to retail in person and I know that’s okay. The company supports me and cares for me and my individual needs.
In 2020, the company increased the dependent care benefits that are available to us. It has been so great to know I have these benefits when I need them. The Sage Employee Resource Group helped me understand and learn more about all the benefits offered to us. They host a variety of learning sessions last year around wellness and benefits that support employees.
Before my involvement with Sage and their panel event about caregivers, there were not a lot of people who knew my circumstances. I kept a wall up. Sage identified a diverse population of employees to help feel valued and seen. After the panel, I have had so many people across the company reach out to learn more about Alzheimer's, how to be a caregiver and to provide support. It opened a network of caregivers and provided a platform for me to bring awareness to this illness. It allowed me to bring my true, authentic self to work and know I have a voice. Since then, my coworkers have been so supportive of me. My manager has been incredible throughout this experience. Everyone calls and texts to check in; people write letters and send beautiful flowers to show they are thinking of me. My colleagues and I share relevant articles and check in regularly. I am so thankful to have created these lasting friendships despite the pandemic.