Tag

relationships

Leading as Caregiver – It’s Complicated

By Caregiver, ePatient, Family man, Leader One Comment

Last week I wrote about Leadership, the Gift That Keeps on Giving. Several e-mails asked about the challenge of leading a health team in the role of caregiver.  Great question! A challenge of leading in a sometimes hostile confederacy of people who don’t even know they’re on a team. Same dilemma as the person who’s on the health journey plus leading when it’s not your life, but a loved one’s. Let’s make it crazier still, as caregiver, you might not want to lead, but there’s a vacuum sucking you in.

In my work life as a leader I see my role to attend to self-care of whole team, get stuff out of the team’s way so they can do their job, listen to what they need, advocate for them, keep them informed about the larger organization, set the tone and culture by example, delegate, keep things moving, plan for succession, and be trustworthy.

How does that help me as a caregiver? One thing I noticed about my mom during her last months – when alert she paid a lot of attention to the well-being of her team. As a caregiver leading that’s a challenge and maybe the most important job.  The person you’re caring for may take self-care of the rest of the team as minor desertions.  But the team can’t support unless they’re as well as possible in the midst of the stress. So I guess that the caregiver leader sets the tone of self-care by example. Getting stuff out of the way can mean helping to arrange schedules, transportation, meals, equipment, meds, and communication channels.  When my son Mike was dying, we had a weekly family call, Friday’s at 7p where we reviewed the past week’s events, next week’s schedule of appointments, needs of everyone, divvied up work and figured out who to ask for what. People often come out of the woodwork to help, but don’t know how. They can be a pain if they don’t know. Given direction they’re a blessing. Read More

Leadership – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

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

I felt so empowered by the best boss ever, Jim Bulger, Executive Director of a managed care company.  After I had been Director of Quality Management for 3 months, I told Jim that I didn’t think we were moving along at the speed he wanted us to go. “What do you think we should do?” Jim asked.  “Frankly, I think we need to start with you.” OMG, what had I said?  Have I no filters?!! To my joy and consternation, Jim responded, “Ok, teach me. Every morning 7am, 30 minutes, your agenda.” I had to get my act together fast. Several years later I asking Jim why he had done that. “I would have been an idiot not to. I hired you, didn’t I?” This was a gift to me.  A gift of trust, a gift of leadership.  I’ve learned over the years to value this gift of leadership.

Leadership is a foundation stone of maximizing the experience of people at the center of care. It’s not sufficient, but it’s necessary. Many opportunities exist to steer the boat, set the tone, build trust, value contributions, empower, take care of each other – opportunities for leadership. You can lead an organization. You can lead a team. Leader can be in your title or not. You can lead for a moment or a career. There is no ultimate leader.  It’s a relative position – a relationship position.

My mom led her health team during end-of-life. She set the tone, admitted and expelled team members. She set the culture. Once you were admitted to her team she listened to and empowered. It worked well. It’s an art as a leader to pull back and let others lead. She chose to lead. Read More

AACH: Communication and Relationships

By Advocate, Clinician, ePatient, Researcher One Comment

I attended the American Academy of Communication in Healthcare Conference in New Haven. The AACH is the professional home for all committed to improving communication and relationships in healthcare. About 200 people attended from US, Canada, Israel, Brazil, Belgium, Australia. Although most attendees were physicians, I met nurses, therapists, coaches, office managers, patients, sociologists, medical students, and researchers. A couple of very low-key sponsors but no vendors present. A pleasant relief. The conference was designed to maximize interaction, learn from each other, and build skills within work groups and special interest groups. Met several venerable experts. Very open and quite humble: We have a lot to learn. Especially about patient centeredness. Most exciting for me was a presentation by Sharon Schindler Rising, a nurse midwife, talking about Centering Groups – facilitated groups of 6-10 young moms/couples preparing for the impending birth of a child. A wonderful example of people-centered design with participants directing much of the flow of the monthly small groups. Professionals and services came to them. Groups often kept meeting on their own after the children reach one year old, sometimes for 8-10 years. New groups have been starting for decades. Evidence over that time showed significant increase in proportion of pregnancies going to full term and decrease in the proportion of low birth weight babies. One sad piece of the presentation was the description of the barrier caused by the advent of the electronic health record. One participant-generated practice had been for moms and dads to enter their own health data into the paper record: instant empowerment!  Not so with electronic record. People could no longer enter their own data into the health record. Shadow records had to be created. Lord, I was crushed when I heard this. I participated in several subsequent discussions about the infrastructure and skill set that would be needed to spread the Centering Group model to other settings. Instant learning!! Read More

Transitions – What you don’t know can hurt you

By Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Leader One Comment

Still exploring communication across transitions.  This week speaking with clinicians. First, with case managers in an acute, short-term rehabilitation center serving people with recent strokes, heart conditions, or surgeries needing less than a month of intensive therapy. The transition points between nurses shift to shift, between physicians and between case managers, between patients, families, and primary care clinicians at discharge worked the best because they’re well documented and standardized. Tools are in place for the sharing of information. Either the hand-offs between clinicians are routine or patient education notebooks are completed the same for every patient: not the same contents but the same workflow. Since it’s not acute care (short stays)  there  is more for hand-offs and to develop relationships with the patient and their caring network and time for patients and families to absorb the instructions. A considerable volume of paper is generated, resulting in lots to read and lots to fax (everything by fax!). Maybe too much to read.  Information coming in with patients was less complete than information going out with patients. Communication was better in general and more complete if a person received all their care within the same health system.  The biggest risk? Not receiving information about critical medications, such as blood thinners, steroids, and antidepressants.

Next, a community Primary Care clinic. Again, communication best when a person is discharged from a hospital within the same health system as their clinic. Then a nurse knows when someone is going to be discharged or has been discharged.  The nurse calls the patient at home and can let the doctor know that the patient has their prescriptions filled, knows what to do, or if anything needs attention. For the patient discharged from a hospital outside the health system, the clinic often doesn’t know the patient was even in the hospital and has to scramble to gather information so they can support the person. The transition from home to office works least well.  Someone calls the office needing an appointment or has a question or needs a prescription filled. The quality of screening, triage, and information gathering varies widely  The more the patient or caregiver takes charge, the better the communication with the call center the better the clinic visit goes. Transition communication with specialists outside the system seemed quite a challenge without a common EHR for communication. Read More

Fractured Communication in Crises

By Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Informaticist, Leader 2 Comments

This week two of my readers described experiences of fractured communication with their clinicians.  One reader, a person in acute treatment for overwhelming anxiety, found himself watching and feeling the effects of dueling clinicians with widely differing diagnoses, medication regimens, and styles of communication. A collaborative, listening, empathetic physician versus a paternalistic, blameful, arrogant physician. Both physicians practiced in the same organization but in adjacent levels of care (one inpatient and the other outpatient). They didn’t coordinate care – they didn’t even speak to each other. The person with acute anxiety had to muster energy to advocate for himself and seek help from his partner. To little effect.  The other reader experienced a sickle-cell crisis in a hospital without a sickle-cell specialist.  She couldn’t get pain medication known to work for her.  She was classified as a drug seeker.  The treating physician wouldn’t communicate with the specialist who had treated this reader successfully many times and managed her long-term care.

So many levels of outrage here. How is it that institutions, practices, and people working in these two programs don’t know about disrespect, poor communication skills and lack of coordination within? Does nobody raise a red flag?  Where was the medical record? Where were the leaders? Read More

Scared?

By Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Family man, Informaticist, Leader 3 Comments

My friend, Phyllis, in Cleveland suggested I might be asking the wrong question: “What works for me when I’m scared and what doesn’t?” You may recall that readers who have been patients and caregivers have been adamant that this is a key piece of information that should be in the electronic health record, especially needed in the ER. In 5+ years of advocacy I’ve been unable to generate interest from IT wonks. Anyway, I was whining about my ineffectiveness to Phyllis.

So let’s break it down a bit more. I’ve never met anyone in an unexpected health situation who wasn’t scared. Scared looks like: startled, numb, stomach ache, sweating, heart racing, catastrophizing , panicked……

It’s good to know in advance what helps settles me down. Deep breaths, meditation, hold my hand, a good laugh, quiet, a walk, listening to John Lennon, my wife and family, more information, respect from those around me plus listening to me, Ativan. My mom needed a hand to hold, control, opera. My friend needs someone from his immediate family and information, reduced stimulus, quiet, to be kept warm, headphones with classical musical. We all can use something. The unexpected health care situation can vary. My chronic condition, MS, could flare up – known yet unexpected.  You could break your leg – an accident plus pain. You could have a heart attack or kidney stones – sudden, debilitating, with pain. You could be alone or with someone you trust – very different scenarios. Read More

Screen-Free Sabbath

By Family man, Musician One Comment

Week 3 of my wife and my Screen-Free Sabbath. Feels pretty good. After the first week it feels like a relief.  I’m reading more books – paper and not Kindle. Turned off my e-mail and social media notifications. They were all still there at sundown Saturday. No emergencies. Sitting still more often – some alone, some with my wife.  Got my recumbent trike out, tuned up and rode it. Had to buy some paper Sudoku books. It affects my week as well. I’m looking at the phone less often, meditating more. Still using the iPhone for texts and phone calls-have only received a few. Using it when playing my sax: playing my recorded rehearsals, metronome, etc. Sitting on the bus or subway more often looking at people and not the screen. Noticing the blue sky and spring colors. My grandson freaked out: Will I have to do it too? All week? OMG. He’s relieved that it’s just Grandma and Opa and not him, unless he’s at our flat sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  I’ve spoken to several parents who have 5-7p screen-free every day, others do a 24-hour period as we do.

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A caregiver is [not] a caregiver, is [not] a caregiver

By Advocate, Caregiver, Family man, Researcher 2 Comments

When my mother was dying I was a long distance caregiver.  My mom made her own decisions, shared them with us, sought advice from me, asking me to research meds and treatments, wanted help with scheduling, wanted me to attend some of her appointments with her (mostly by phone) and gave me access to her electronic health record. Our family had open and dynamic communication. I was the health coordinator, my older sister helped manage business, my younger sister was her companion. These roles evolved over the years and solidified as our mom declined. Read More

#SDM – a floor, not a ceiling

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

I am a patient, caregiver, and nurse – an advocate of shared decision-making (#SDM).  My health team operates in a collaborative process that allows us to make health care decisions together, taking into account the best scientific evidence available, as well as my values and preferences. (See this site for more info.). Click here for my other posts about SDM. Yet SDM sometimes makes me feel agitated and disappointed. SDM is a floor, not a ceiling – necessary but not sufficient.  Read More

Secretary General of Your Health Team

By Advocate, Consumer, ePatient, Family man, Leader 3 Comments

I want to be a good leader of my healthcare team. How would I know?  Such a swirl of activity. This week my ophthalmologist wanted to refer to me another ophthalmologist.  She said she’d email her to introduce me, send over my records, and have her scheduler arrange the appointment. I’ll follow-up if I don’t hear from the scheduler in a week. My chiropractor wants to hear what the massage therapist and physical therapist recommends and aligns his plan with theirs.  My neurology nurse practitioner called me to say that the insurance company won’t cover the brand name injection I’ve taken for years because there’s a new generic medication. She doesn’t think it’s been tested enough on people before FDA approval. Instead she will prescribe a different dose of the brand name drug instead that’s still covered.  Is that OK with me?

My healthcare team is like no other team in my life – not like family, not like business teams. It feels like a team in the clouds. They never gather together as a team.  If they communicate at all it’s through me, or emails and snail mail reports, or if they’re in the same system through the electronic health record. I can think of once in 7 years that any clinician spoke to each other directly: my primary care doc called the neurologist when I fell and sustained a concussion. My wife has attended a couple of doctor appointments with me when I was first diagnosed with MS. Several times a year a prescriber speaks with a pharmacy or medical supply company to clarify an order. My family likes to stay current about my treatments, risks, appointments, and stress. They talk with me and among themselves.

Who is my team?  Me, my wife, my sons and their families, my sister, my doctors and their teams, other clinicians (massage therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, physical therapist, optometrist, optician, pharmacist), medical supply companies, insurance company. I’m fortunate. I’m a good e-patient and I’m a clinician myself.  I’ve selected this team (except the insurance and pharmacy benefit companies).  One of my best barometers of team effectiveness is usually how the team operates when the leader isn’t in the room. Do they work better when she’s present or absent? Do the team members treat each other with respect? Is communication open? Are they clear about accountability, do they meet their commitments? But in healthcare there are so many other factors and power dynamics between clinicians, office staff, caregivers, insurance companies, administrators.  It’s crazy complex – like being Secretary General of your health team. I wonder what Ban Ki-moon would advise?