Precision Prism

I’m the son, Custodian, and Healthcare Proxy of my 89-year-old mother, Alice. I live in a different state. My mother has diabetes and is depressed. Her care team, besides herself and me, includes medical providers in various health settings, community support agencies, and a full-time caregiver that helps her schedule and get to health-related services. My problem is to understand what my mother wants for herself and to track who says they’re doing something for her (including my mother and me), what they’re doing, and when they’re doing it. I want to know what it takes to do it (Can she afford it? Can she get there? Does it agree with her? Who will be with her? etc.). I want to know if the actions have the effects we thought they would. I want to know what her risks are and how we plan to prevent or respond to them. I want to able to keep track of all this and keep it current. I want to share it or have it shared from day-to-day and from setting to setting even if I’m not present. Continue reading “Precision Prism”

Resist, Fund Me, Change, Join, Decide, Click, Lead

The pervasive drumbeat of Calls for Action in healthcare overwhelms me, excite me, bewilder me. I’m wired for action. I have to listen and consider or shut it out. I have no middle ground. There’s a limited amount of gas in my tank. I feel protective of my retirement dollars. And I still need to take out the garbage and do the laundry. Do I want to respond? Am I able to respond? What am I really responding to? How much is enough? Does it align with my mission? Will it be fun? Continue reading “Resist, Fund Me, Change, Join, Decide, Click, Lead”

Service Agreements for Me and My Health Team

I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago for the Society of Participatory Medicine about Service Agreements Among Friends and Colleagues. My point was that service agreements set boundaries, which can be especially important for someone who’s managing a chronic condition. I shared my post with my colleagues at Involution Studios while we discussed the future of Precision Medicine.  What if we had service agreements with members of our health team? Professionals and non-professionals. And ourselves. Could we think of care plans as service agreements? Person-centered care planning focuses on the goals of the person on the health journey. Who’s going to do what to get there? When? How will these goals and activities be tracked and shared across time and settings? The service agreement is the who’s doing what to get there and when are they going to do it? If my goal is to progress as slowly as possible with my Multiple Sclerosis, then my part of the service agreement is that I will: Continue reading “Service Agreements for Me and My Health Team”

Coalition for Compassionate Care of California


I attended the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California Conference (#CCCC17) in Sacramento this week as an ePatient Scholar. Exhilarating, informative, warm, curious, inspiring, and tiring. I hoped to leave with one novel (for me) insight into palliative care; hear patient, caregiver, and clinician stories about their experiences; to hear how clinicians receive education about end-of-life conversations; to add to my network of patient/caregiver experts; and leave with a sharper focus for my #careplanning work. Amazing! I accomplished all five. I hoped to accomplish three of five (I habitually set myself up to exceed expectations).

  1. The new insight: In Prognosticating for Adverse Outcomes Using Palliative Care with Daniel Hoefer, MD, I learned that we can predict probable outcomes for elderly persons with few reserves facing surgery and hospitalization. They will be likely to have cognitive and functional decline and go into a nursing home.  The hip replacement may be successful but without an acceptable quality of life. Intriguing presentation.
  2. Personal stories of individuals, caregivers, and clinicians filled every nook. Two twenty-somethings, Charlie and Devon, spoke about their experience with serious chronic illnesses since birth. One had just had the first full year of unhospitalized life in her 26 years. Danielle, a caregiving mother, shared stories about her 10-year-old daughter’s journey born with one ventricle. Surgery after surgery, complication after complication, traveling back and forth from Arizona and Boston for care. Sandy Chen Stokes, RN, MSN received an award for her work with the Chinese American community. This community has the lowest rate of hospice use of any group in the US. The Chines American Coalition for Compassionate Care represents 1300 people in 80 groups around the country. A force of nature! I wish I had a means of recording these stories and sharing them. I’ll be collaborating with the Patient Voice Institute to make this easier.
  3. I spoke with Michael Fratkin, MD, Director, Resolution Care, about a virtual immersive learning tool being developed by Lahey Clinic and Wellesley Partners to teach physicians to be more skilled at advanced care planning. He advised me that the support of clinical leadership, alignment with daily clinic workflow, and interest of the physicians were needed for any teaching tool to be effective.
  4. I’m eager to continue communicating with my fellow ePatient Scholars.  Elizabeth has MS, is quadriplegic, and whispers through a headset into a speaker. “I’m a world-class emailer!!”
  5. Finally, I received reinforcement from my ePatient mates to focus some of my work on tools for goal setting and measurement of goal concordant care (Our care follows our preferences).

This week I’m headed to DC to complete review of PCORI Palliative Care funding requests. Onward!

Need a recharge? Listen for what works.

I feel awash with stories (nightmares even) of disastrous, frustrating relationships between people and their professional care teams. I listen with amazement and watch the hurt, the anger, the self-blame, bubble out, spew forth. Sometimes I have to sit sideways to protect my heart from breaking. At their best, relationships are partnerships. Partnerships can be a bitch in the best of circumstances. Yet, good partnerships make me high – the partnerships with my honey, my work teams, in music groups, with the anonymous one-time chance encounter and yes, with my health teams. Continue reading “Need a recharge? Listen for what works.”

Community Rocks

I’m preparing to attend a California Compassionate Care Coalition palliative care conference #cccc17 in a week. I’m reminded of the power of community in advancing good health practices. I have two stories. The first is about the ongoing public health collaboration since 1993 in LaCrosse, WI to meet and sustain very high rates of advanced care planning and following documented preferences through end of life.  A group of people organized a region-wide initiative to elicit, understand, document, and honor a patient’s preferences about future medical care. As a result end of life preferences are a regular part of community conversation, documents became easier to understand and use, some electronic medical records facilitated access to choices, and following the choices became standard practice. In 2010 90% has a plan, 99% were available in the medical record, and 99.5% of the time treatment was consistent with preferences. (See the Journal of American Geriatrics Society).  Amazing! Continue reading “Community Rocks”

Should I or Shouldn’t I? Managing Uncertainty

Have you ever remodeled your kitchen? So many decisions: Cabinet style, drawers, finish, hardware, not to mention the floor and appliances. There’s you, your partner, a contractor, a cabinet person, a floor person, the appliance merchant. Decision after decision – should we or shouldn’t we? And nobody’s gonna die or get injured – hopefully.  All while trying to keep living, cooking, dishes, lunches. My wife and I were so stressed.  Kitchen decisions pale next to health decisions, especially medical decisions. It’s not like, “do I prefer this drawer pull to that drawer pull?” “Would I rather have wood or tile floors?” There is so much more uncertainty in health care.

Why me, why now? Who says? How sure are they? What if I do? What if I don’t? Will I still be able to ….? Who pays? What will they think? How do I get there? What aren’t they telling me? Are they listening to me when I say I can’t or I won’t? I just can’t think right now! Oh, this sure sucks! Continue reading “Should I or Shouldn’t I? Managing Uncertainty”

Tales of Woe

From my memorable quotes pile:

Harried caregiver: What are we supposed to do next? Instructions from doctors, just getting through the day, plus dealing with bureaucracy? My word, I’m so overwhelmed. Everybody thinks their thing is the most important. Can’t this be easier for my wife and me?

Recently diagnosed patient:  I feel like crap. I want to follow instructions, I do. I thought I understood everything at the office.  Now I’m home, how do I get my questions answered? Continue reading “Tales of Woe”

Belonging

“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.” ― Wallace StegnerAngle of Repose

“I rest in ease, knowing there are others out there, whispering themselves to sleep, just like me.” ― Charlotte Eriksson

I am the son of Holocaust survivors.   My mother was a German Jew, a refugee in Netherlands spending her teen years in hiding, then a refugee in the United States. Her family had means and connections.  My father’s father was a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and a refugee in Switzerland, then the United States. He had means and connections.  They were both welcomed into this country. Continue reading “Belonging”