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Caregivers Rule: National Caregiving Conference

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, Family man | One Comment

I just got home from the 2nd Annual National Caregiving Conference in Chicago convened and hosted by Denise Brown and  NationalCaregiving.com. You know the drill – most health care anywhere in the world is provided by family caregivers and parents. The attendees, mostly active or recent caregivers, networked over their shared lived experience. Presentations about caring for elders with dementia was the most common thread and topic.  Occasionally I heard chatter about caring for children or depression. Sometimes the stories of frustration, exhaustion, and loneliness overwhelmed those of gratitude, survival, and inspiration. It’s hard for me to hear too many of the painful stories and maintain my pathological optimism.

I especially appreciated the session about surviving and blossoming as a couple while caregiving led by Frank and Lisa Riggi – heartfelt, practical, and humorous. 10 Activities to do With Your Spouse Every Year – 10!, Only 10? I ask many caregivers, “How goes your marriage/partnership?” Faces fall.  Cathy Sikorski‘s keynote, Preparation, Frustration, and Surrender…Boldness Throughout Caregiving was an intriguing combination of hands-on, funny, and legal. Imagine you’re talking to the Cable Company. Be Bold!

Did you know that a third of caregivers die before their caree? Crazy?  Not really. Caregiving wears you down, while caregivers put their caree before themselves. Self-care: I loves that theme. This crowd seemed to self-care better than many.

The entrepreneurial spirit shone. My favorites: Carla Macklin’s Adaptive Clothing; Mekhala Raghavan and Angie Creager’s bathing aids and fall prevention (Waiting for production of their vibrating neuro-responsive fall prevention mat and their wash and vacuum the water shower anywhere system. I’ll try anything for fall prevention for myself and narrow doorway bathrooms are endemic in older homes); Quikiks Hands-Free Shoes (I’m always looking for easy, safe, comfortable shoes); and Shirley Riga’s book, “Tools for the Exceptional Parent of a Chronically Ill Child” published by Strong Voices Publishing.  Check them out! I love to hear what works for people. Solutions from the trenches rule! (I receive no compensation from anyone mentioned here.)

I attended as a panelist for The Family Connection: Supporting Essential Care Partners as Patients Transition to Home, with Geri Lynn Baumblatt, Mary Anne Sterling, and Cathy Crookston. Most nightmares I heard at the conference involved transitions to or from medical care. I did hear one story of the transition done very, very well. It can be done. If you’re lucky it’s because one person made a difference.  It shouldn’t be luck. Caregiving is hard enough.

Caregivers: How do you manage your marriage? When has BOLD worked for you? What’s the best transition you’ve experienced?

Honor the caregivers. Help the helpers.

From the Inside Looking Out

By | Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Family man | No Comments

At the #PCORI2017 Annual Meeting, Alan Alda showed us a simple mirror improv exercise (remember Groucho and Chico Marx in Duck Soup?). Alan first showed us him mirroring an audience member, then the audience member mirroring him, and finally, them mirroring each other at the same time. It was an exercise in empathy.  Afterwards, someone at my table said,

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand. From the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain.

I first heard these words many years ago from a peer support professional describing the experience of depression and addiction. I understand this better now that I’m a person with a chronic illness. I work hard to explain what’s inside to my family and other members of my health team.  Often I don’t know or I don’t have words. Mindful meditation helps tremendously – deciding to become friends with what ails me. It’s all me and I love me. I’m not sure if it helps me explain, but it helps me know myself. And for sure, it increases my empathy when I’m on the outside looking in. Thanks, Alan, for reminding us.

See also other posts about Improv and

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Learning from What Doesn’t Work

Personal Health Goals Revisited

By | Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient | One Comment

I’m celebrating that I’ve finally learned an effective stretch for my hamstrings. Thigh and calf Charley horses and foot cramps have disrupted my days. My low back’s been hurting for several months caused by this tightening and cramping of my quads, hamstrings, calves, and feet. It’s become hard to sit for more than 15 minutes. I bought a standing desk, next to my sitting desk. I’m paying attention to ergonomics, learning to type (I’ve always been a hunt and peck kind of guy). My chiropractor and massage therapist attribute these muscle cramps to changes in my walking caused by the MS and wearing an ankle/foot orthotic. The Charley horses are the worst. I’m learning that there’s nothing straightforward about stretching. I’ve been stretching for months with very short-term relief. All of a sudden on a road trip this week, stopping at every rest stop to stretch, it kicked in! It’s not about stretching, it’s about relaxing. Standing tall, pelvic tilt, bending at the waist, relaxing. A meditation. I can feel the hamstrings and calves responding. Exciting!  Read More

Bad experience? Now what?

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient, Leader | No Comments

I read a post this week on the Society of Participatory Medicine’s blog about a nightmare attempt to obtain medical appointments as new patients. You’ve faced the poor listening skills, conflicting information about the availability of appointments, lack of sharing information about you within the clinic or insurance company, poor or no follow-up, waiting, waiting, waiting, that the author describes.

I’ve dealt with it, too, as a patient, caregiver, clinician, and quality management leader. So, how do health care clinics and insurance companies know about the challenges their patients/customers live through? The most common is through surveys. Surveys are blunt (not sharp) and fairly useless. Most health plans require clinics to administer the CGAHPS Clinician and Group Survey. Three questions on the survey include:

  1. Patient got appointment for urgent care as soon as needed
  2. Patient got appointment for non-urgent care as soon as needed
  3. Patient got answer to medical question the same day he/she contacted provider’s office

You can answer Never, Sometimes, Usually, Always.

Most health plans survey patients about health plan service:

  1. In the last 12 months, when you needed care right away, how often did you get care as soon as you needed?
  2. In the last 12 months, how often did you get an appointment for a check-up or routine care at a doctor’s office or clinic as soon as you needed?
  3. In the last 12 months, how often was it easy to get the care, tests, or treatment you needed?

See, not very informative. A score might be more than 80% of patients say Usually or Always? That could mean that 19 of 100 people responding are unhappy with their experience. Wow. How can anything be changed based on that result? Read More

Service Agreements for Me and My Health Team

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient | 2 Comments

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: Read More

March Madness – TrumpCare

By | Advocate, Consumer, Family man, Leader | 2 Comments

I’m not following March Madness this year for the first time since we bought a TV in 1985. We ended cable this year (that’s another health story for later). Rather, I followed the suspense of the failed enactment of RyanCare and TrumpCare. I silently cheered at my seat in DC while reviewing PCORI Palliative Care funding requests.  My elation lasted all of five seconds. I can’t ignore that Ryan, Trump et al still want to end funding for Meals on Wheels, housing subsidies, and home energy supports. We know that even with the best-subsidized insurance, a person who can’t get enough food to eat nor heat their home, nor afford a home can’t benefit from great medical care. These social determinants of health (or living life if you’re not a researcher or policy maker) impact health as much as, if not more than, medical care. Read More

Community Rocks

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient, Family man, Leader | No Comments

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! Read More

Tales of Woe

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Family man, Leader | One Comment

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? Read More

Personal Health Goals

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Family man, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

 

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. Read More