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mindfulness Archives - Danny van Leeuwen Health Hats

Eureka! Triggers and Signals

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient | 4 Comments

When Liz found herself unwilling to floss, she knew that major depression was soon to follow. She’s going to need help.  She tells someone who knows how to help her before she loses the will to take any action. When I start to get dizzy, I know my MS symptoms will soon get worse.  Drinking water almost always helps. Water! Sometimes I feel like I’m going to cry. No real reason. Normal life. It’s a signal that I’m overtired. Nap or meditation is next.  It always works. If John feels stressed and bloated, a flare-up of his Crohn’s is soon to follow. He avoids certain food, takes acetaminophen, and stays near a bathroom. When Tiffany gets a rash she needs to see her doctor within a couple of days. If she has joint pain as well, it can’t wait a couple of days.  Tiffany has lupus.

Liz, John, Tiffany, and I recognize signals that trouble is coming and action is needed. We learned the signals because we are wired to take the step back and watch ourselves from a distance. We are mindful and curious about patterns. It takes time until the Eureka/recognition minute hits. None of our doctors ever asked us if we knew our signals or asked us about our patterns.  We are all four fortunate to have a friend or care partner who listens to our ramblings.  It’s during these ramblings, complaining, wondering, pattern-seeking, and problem-solving that we learned first one signal, then more. Two of us have clinicians that helped us figure out what to do once we told them about our signals. The other two tried stuff they learned from our advocacy associations and social media networks. We are so relieved to be building this tool chest of actions to take when we recognize signals. We are eager to discover more patterns and signals. It’s like turning over a rock and finding a twinkling gem.

Once we recognize a pattern, a signal, and an action that works, we can start to look for triggers. Triggers are stressors we know will be likely to cause a signal. Managing triggers is prevention. Liz, John, Tiffany, and I have a common set of triggers: emotional stress, inactivity, smoke inhalation, insufficient rest. We also have unique triggers.  They are many and varied.

Traditional doctor visits seldom contain routine time to learn about and discover signals, triggers, responses, and prevention. The electronic medical records seldom keep track of this learning, action, and response. It makes sense (silly, but makes sense). It’s time-consuming and it’s not in the many medical professionals’ training and workflow.  It’s up to us and our personal health team. I find that people who blog about their illness and their life challenges caused or made worse by their illness, almost always write about signals, triggers, and actions. You can find many on The Chronic Illness Bloggers here on Facebook. Liz, John, Tiffany, and I also keep track as we learn about what worked – Spreadsheets, journals, or blogging.

Not everyone has a pattern-seeking brain. Even if they do have a pattern-seeking brain, they may feel so bad that there’s little space to use it.  So it’s up to our care partner, our friends, our social network, to help us.  It’s liberating. It’s diagnosis agnostic (true for any chronic illness). It’s so totally worth the effort. What have you learned?

Dandelion Trigger Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

Pattern Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

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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.

Favorite vest

Adjusting Your Personal Health Plan? Right…

By | Caregiver, ePatient | No Comments

My mother bought me a beautiful handmade brocade vest when I lost 45 pounds.  It’s my favorite. I can’t button it now. Not even close. I haven’t worn it in several years. My personal health goal: Lose weight and keep it off.  It may be the most common American health goal. American’s spent about $60 billion on weight loss in 2013. Every year, 45 million Americans go on a diet. So, I’ve learned that I can lose weight, but not keep it off.  To attain my goal I need to adjust my health plan.

What is adjusting? Set a goal, try something, be dissatisfied with the result (learn), then adjust. Adjusting means changing a habit. In my experience as a student of individual and organization health, changing a habit is hard, very hard. I think of changing habits like watching water flow – water flows in the path of least resistance, makes a channel, and gets deeper.  We mostly like and value those channels. They’re comfortable until they flood or become polluted. Read More

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

Making a difference as circumstances change

By | Advocate, Caregiver | No Comments

I love hearing, That’s a great idea! I’ll try it. I’m delighted when I say it. This week my chiropractor said, You need more hydration, try drinking one more glass of water this week, and two more next week. I’m tickled when I counsel someone and they say Great idea, I’ll try it, as happened this week.  I spoke with a friend with a rare disease in a new community, Maybe you could focus next on building a new care team, Those are making a difference of one.

There’s another thrill to being a good leader and making a difference for a team: Family first. What do you need to get the job done? What do you recommend? We’ve got to have fun doing this. Some make a difference for communities, nations, the world with products and policy. For example, Obamacare provided health insurance for 20 million people; the Internet allowed virtual supportive communities to form. And there’s in between, as when a client says That’s a great idea to my proposal, we could use this platform to promote caregivers’ coaching each other and the caregivers could earn some money at it? 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

Thoughts on FATIgue

By | Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Family man | 8 Comments

Exploit the relative dry spots in the wet blanket of fatigue.

Sadness and fatigue are kissing cousins.

So are chronic illness and fatigue.

Close your eyes, give in to fatigue.

When fatigued, turn off the news.

Passion finds and expands the cracks in fatigue.

Bone-tired fatigue? Take 2 deep breaths. Move something, anything.

Belly laughs exhaust fatigue.

Trump fatigue. #IamAMuslim.

A lethal stew: worry, annoyance, bitterness, and fatigue.

Fatigued? Love yourself. Whatever you do today is enough.

Fatigue loves hugs.

Health Hats – 2016 in Review

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

I’ve been feeling my oats in 2016 as an advocate and catalyst for Empowering people as they travel together toward best health. As my dear friend, Mary Sue said, Danny, you’ve found your calling! Wearing my many hats, I often feel like I know enough to be dangerous about much of healthcare. When I walk into a room of experts in their fields – clinicians, researchers, policy makers, techies, insurers, executives, I think, What am I doing here? I’m way over my head. It takes two minutes to understand that I’m the connector of their considerable expertise to the workflow and life flow of patients, clinicians, caregivers, and staff. I’m also the translator among their jargons. I can shift the conversation by offering a voice for some experiences of patients, caregivers, and clinicians.

I’ve refined my work this year as a connector, translator, and advisor while working as a technical expert in patient-centered research, behavioral health information technology, community health, and health payment innovation. I’ve benefited from the warm embrace of Wellesley Partners during this transition year after leaving my 40+ years as an employee and boss.  I am grateful that they believed in me and helped me polish a few rough edges of inexperience. I also appreciate the counsel of many – Doug, Geri, Pat(s), Juhan, Bevin, Eve, Jarred, Keren, Jonathan, Sarah, and Lauren to name a few. You all know who you are. Thanks. I’m grateful for the many inspiring people in the patient/caregiver/clinician experience space. Thanks for all you do. You keep my embers glowing. Read More

Re-calibrating – Finding Balance

By | Caregiver, ePatient, Family man | 4 Comments

So, I have new MS lesions. I’m weaker, less stamina. A 3-days of IV SoluMedrol (steroids) infusion knocked me out. I’m recovering. What will my new normal be? Once again, I’m grateful for my health team. It reconfirms for me that executing a continuing plan of care for self, health team self-care, and building a responsive, loving, skilled health team are critical priorities for best health.

I’m out of balance. Balance implies constant motion – seesaw-like. It’s almost never a steady state. Balance occurs occasionally naturally while going up and down. A balance needs space and time to recalibrate. To think, to reflect, to adjust, to meditate, to vacation, to take a deep breath. Sometimes balance is an active process – change something, add weight, take off weight. More time at work, more time with family, more music, more exercise, more greens. Sometimes it’s laying back, letting life play out, resting, and return to balance as part of the normal see-saw. I’m lucky that I have a low tolerance for being out of balance.  I feel it acutely. I find it easier to be active attaining balance than to give myself some grace and let the balance return more organically. It feels better to be creating space and appreciating space.  More optimistic, better spirit.  Let’s see what happens. Honor caregivers. Help the helpers. Happy New Years, dear readers.

Superpower: Opening our hearts

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Family man, Leader, Musician | 5 Comments

I’m scared but not shocked. The level of disappointment so many people feel about their lives profoundly saddens me. I should have more. I would have more if it weren’t for others – all sorts of others. Feelings of injustice can power so much. I don’t pretend to understand all the righteousness, anger, and meanness that erupt when disappointment builds. But it feels as familiar as the human condition throughout the planet and over the ages. It’s like earthquakes from fracking.  I’m thankful that my mother, a Holocaust survivor, is no longer alive. She would be apoplectic and inconsolable.  What’s going to happen now? How should I act? As when grieving, I will mindfully minimize controllable stress – exercise, rest, listen to and play more music, spend more time with friends and family. I will continue to give thanks for all I have in my first world life. I will continue to pursue my passion for maximizing the experience of people at the center of care. I pray for the physical and spiritual strength to speak up, stand up, and act when the moments seems right. I’ll need strength to take the high road in this low road time. More than anything I’ll pray for unexpected open hearts. The community needs it. Our grandchildren need it.  The unborn need it. Onward.