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.”

Personal Health Goals

 

#IamAMuslim
Your goal needs to be realistic and worthy

As a person with MS, I’ve written that my personal health goals are to progress as slowly as possible and do nothing that will mess with my pathological optimism. People I talk with about personal health goals say it’s not easy to come up with personal goals.  What do I mean? OK, people who are well want to stay well.  Those who are acutely ill (cold, broken leg, stomach ache, etc.) want to get over it. Those who have chronic conditions want to manage as best as possible. Here’s a stab at a list of personal health goals. Continue reading “Personal Health Goals”

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, decisions, decisions. We face endless numbers of decisions during our health journeys. From the mundane, should I fast to lose weight? To the tedious, what statin should I take? To the heartbreak, should we do everything possible? Yesterday, after playing music, someone told us that he fasted to lose 20 pounds. How many weight loss discussions have we had in an endless number of settings. I can remember one time discussing it with my Primary Care doctor – no decision, no choice of action – just an observation that my weight had been steadily increasing over the years. My cholesterol is high, and my Dad died young of a heart attack (not from high cholesterol). I’ve taken six different statins. My Primary Care doc thinks the evidence is strong for me to take statins. We regularly change brand based on effects on my liver enzymes, cost, and insurance coverage.  A friend’s elder mother had major heart surgery. The cardiac surgeon reported success, she’s doing great – the blockage was successfully removed. She’s still in a coma, intubated. She’s never had end-of-life conversations, no advanced directives. Her husband will want to do everything possible. No decisions lead to a decision. Continue reading “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions”

Giving Thanks

thanksI’m thankful for my superpower that I shared with my mother, Ruth, and son, Mike – accepting what is.

I’m thankful that I was born a  white straight male to a closeted gay dad, Ruben, and a Holocaust survivor, Ruth – I appreciate that I have first world problems and learned from them that I must act to better the world.

I’m thankful that my best friend is my life partner and care partner – I strive to be equal to her love.

I’m thankful for my extended family, characters all.

I’m thankful for a 40+ year career as a nurse – privileged to serving during people’s most vulnerable moments.

I’m thankful that I was invited to join my grandmother, mother, and son during their end-of-life journeys.

I’m thankful that my grown sons love the strong women they married, revel in fatherhood, and contribute to community well-being – they keep me honest.

I’m thankful for my grandsons – OMG, what can I say?! Continue reading “Giving Thanks”

Standard Health Record

win_20161030_08_52_02_proI’m on vacation this week. A Blues Cruise. Heard two bands with bari saxes already – Los Lobos and Selwin Birchwood. Today, I’ll try to join the Pro-Amateur JAM.

So just a quick post:
Last week I was invited to the @MITRE Corporation by @HarrySleeper and met teams working on:

  • Standard Health Record, an open source single health record, if it happens to the person, it’s in the SHR. Secure, informed-consent access to our health data across multiple platforms with advanced security and privacy protocols. Accessibility for us and authorized family , care partners, and healthcare providers to our health-record 24/7, anywhere in the world. Empower people with an enduring voice by allowing us to add, verify, and easily share our data with trusted third parties
  • Intervention Engine, assigns risk rating and prioritizes patients for clinician team members in clinics and offices to huddle and review patient status and proposed interventions
  • SyntheticMass, a test database of Massachusetts residents health records simulate population health. Expecting to have all 7 million loaded in 2021
  • Bonnie, a tool for pretesting clinical quality measures
  • Social Determinants of Health, a great graphic for a holistic picture of health

Thanks to @JuhanSonin for the intro. Amazing work going on. Need to spread the word. Till next week.

I Wasn’t Born with a Tattoo, Telling Me How Long I Have to Live

10p New Year’s night 2002: Mike called me. I’m numb on my right side. My heart screamed. My boy had a stage 4 melano2012-05-17-mike-porchma removed from his neck a year ago followed by lymph node removal and a course of Interferon. Go to the Emergency Department. The next day a metastasized brain tumor the size of a grape was removed. Soon he had a lung tumor the size of an orange removed. He called them Terrence (the brain tumor) and Caesar (the lung tumor). Once sufficiently recovered from the surgeries, he began treatment at the cancer center close to his college home. A team of me, my wife and the parents of his girlfriend (who lived near their college home) alternated accompanying Mike on his visits to the cancer center. Mike never felt that he had the information he needed.  They wouldn’t talk prognosis: Am I going to die?  They didn’t explain uncertainty: What does 5% chance of anything mean? I’m 26! They seemed to speak to us more than him. After a particularly frustrating session with the oncologist, I asked him if I could arranged a consultation in the cancer center near us. He agreed. I did. What a difference. Mike immediately bonded with the radiation oncologist. Let me speak with Mike alone. After an hour, Mike came out. I’m probably going to die, but there’s stuff we can try. Oh well, I wasn’t born with a tattoo on my ass telling me how long I had to live. He died November 18th, 2002. Continue reading “I Wasn’t Born with a Tattoo, Telling Me How Long I Have to Live”

Cuz I’m the Dad! That’s Why

scoldingI wish my partner would carry his load. How do I get my kid to clean his room? She never cooks! How do I get her to talk to me? People in relationships complain and scold – expecting the other person to change and do whatever. Makes me cranky. Relationships are a two-way street in a setting with values, habits, and pressures. My kids once gave me a button for my hat: Cuz I’m the Dad. That’s Why! I have been resoundingly unsuccessful over 60+ years getting someone else to change at pretty much anything. Continue reading “Cuz I’m the Dad! That’s Why”

Alone

I first thought about care partners 20 some years ago when my oldest son invited me to spend a few hours with his team heading to Zimbabwe for development aid work. “Talk to us about health, Pop.  What do we need to know?” I remember telling them “keep it zipped up” and “buddy up with a health partner. The health partner commits to sticking with you if you get sick, come hell or high water. Let’s buddy up now”   Six months later, my wife and I received a letter (before email) from Zimbabwe after we hadn’t heard from our son in 2 months. She wrote, “I am your son’s health partner.  He’s OK. He got malaria and just got out of the hospital. I wanted to let you know”

Today, as I advocate for care partners, I wonder,  “What if my son hadn’t had a health partner?” What happens to all these people who don’t have care partners? They are alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 – For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls, and doesn’t have another to lift him up.

This week, Keren Landin, a scientist at Tuft’s, opened my eyes to social networks. Read this book, Connected, by her mentor or watch this YouTube TED Talk. The good news: almost everyone is connected to someone.  Key words: almost and someone. To me that means there are still those with no one and sometimes someone doesn’t include a caregiver or care partner. Continue reading “Alone”

Guests on People’s Health Journeys

As I learn more about and am sought out more as an expert in patient engagement, empowerment, and activation, I struggle to respond to the health-system centric definitions given by people thinking they are patient-centric or want to become patient centric. Stuff like, ‘How do we make patients feel like they were included in decision-making.  I say, “wait a minute, think of it as if you were the guest in patients’ health care journeys.”

I first thought about being the guest in someone’s health care journey 25 years ago when I worked with my sister-in-law, Peggy Boland, a staff nurse in an Intensive Care Unit in Cobleskill, NY. She inspired and taught me much. She would knock on the doorway and ask if she could come in, even if the patient was unconscious. She’s say, “I’m going to turn you now. Ok with you?” She’d greet every person who came into a space she was in. She respected thresholds and personal space.  A very busy person, caring for many people, she’d ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” and do it or say, “I’ll be back in x minutes and do that.” She always made it her business to know family members and find out who would be the care partner in the ICU and at home. She included them in all activities, teaching how to help move, feed, and toilet the patient. “It’s good for you to know this, it’ll be easier than this when you get home, but harder than before you came in. Any questions?” She was proactively curious and helpful. She explained and taught all the time. At the beginning of each shift Peggy would meet with the patient and care partner, “Here’s what I have on my list to accomplish today. What’s on your list?” Then, “Ok, let’s do this, at that time.” Collaborative care planning. Continue reading “Guests on People’s Health Journeys”

Belonging – a matter of perception

During the inevitable ups and downs of life, I feel better when I belong. The pointy end of illness, loss, unintended change, stress, can be softened by belonging. Belonging to a family, team, community. What is this feeling of belonging? Being with family, comrades, teammates, cronies, neighbors. My wife and I are visiting old friends.  Old friends know the good, the bad,and the ugly and still like you and want to be with you. They have been with you through it all. Hence, old friends. Our neighbors look out for us, they have our back, literally. We belong. Belonging fuels a positive narrative that empowers me. I can take risks, I can survive mistakes, I can recover, I can feel better, I can find some peace when I belong.
Belonging feeds itself. To belong, I need to be a family member, a teammate, a neighbor. It’s an investment with some risk and some return. Belonging has an open heart. Paradoxically, an open heart is risky with the possibility of huge return and huge hurt. Yet a better risk than Powerball.  Turning a negative narrative into a positive narrative increases belonging – it’s a superpower. It’s a matter of perception. It’s a magic lever of best health.