family-centered care

Patients feel psycho-social impact of chemo more acutely than physical side effects

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Highlighting the need for integrated Person and Family-Centred Care...

"The results show that there might be a gap between what doctors think is important or disturbing for patients, and what patients really think. Physical, psychological, social and spiritual support is needed at every stage of the disease" 

Source: Patients feel psycho-social impact of chemo more acutely than physical side effects. MedicalXpress

Parenting Through Illness & Grief

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"This one page handout provides an overview of the findings from a research study of parent caregivers. The study was conducted as a collaboration between Dr. Jay Children`s Grief Centre and the Nanny Angel Network" 

Source: Parenting Through Illness & Grief. Canadian Virtual Hospice

A Therapeutic Intervention Facilitating Connection in the Context of Life-Limiting Illness

This video provides a brief overview of an expressive arts project that I complete with families of all ages, following the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, through to end-of-life and into bereavement. Presented at the 13th Annual Innovations in Palliative Care – Leadership, Courage & Community. McMaster University. Department of Family Medicine. Division of Palliative Care. Faculty of Health Sciences (November 2016). This project serves as a therapeutic intervention facilitating communication and honouring connections in the context of life-limiting illness and can be completed by anyone, anywhere at any time. 

It’s a profoundly intimate experience when we are allowed to care for someone… that compassionate connection can transcend so many barriers, and can sometimes even transcend suffering. That connection can be extraordinary.

We all have a role to play in helping to honour someone’s legacy. I believe as Health Care Professionals, like those we care for - we can be courageous in the face of illness, and vulnerability and uncertainty…

We can step out from behind the protection of our roles and in doing so, provide invaluable opportunities for families to connect, and collectively process experiences from time of diagnosis through to end-of-life and into bereavement. 

Source: You Tube. A Therapeutic Intervention Facilitating Connection in the Context of Life-Limiting Illness

Treating troubled family dynamics reduces complicated grief

“Professor David Kissane, who heads the department of psychiatry at Monash University in Melbourne, has developed a family-focussed model of grief therapy to prevent complicated bereavement. A trial published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology earlier this year found the therapy reduced the severity of complicated grief in high-risk families and the development of prolonged grief disorder.

Professor Kissane says bereavement therapy for families is more effective than therapy for individuals when grief is being perpetuated by dysfunctional family relationships. He says the most common family configuration he sees is parents and their children, but for some families it includes a neighbour, grandparents or aunts and uncles.

‘Family centred care is based on the idea that families that grieve together stay together and they heal their grief very well,’ he tells Palliative Matters.”

Celebrating Connections: A Creative Legacy Project. A Free Public Event. Oct. 6th 2016

I am hosting a free event dedicated to making Hugs. "The physical embrace of a Hug is comforting for anyone in a time of need. In this instance, it is a creative legacy project that can be completed by anyone, anywhere at any time and is then exchanged as a lasting memento". This is a family event and appropriate for children of all ages. Please join me.

For more information or to register please visit Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/celebrating-connections-a-creative-legacy-project-registration-27657060011

Storytelling in Grief: Honouring Connections while Celebrating Legacies #hpm

“I don’t know how to tell my family about the diagnosis…” “I haven’t told my kids that I’m dying…”

Families often reeling following the diagnosis of Cancer or other life-limiting diseases, struggle with how, and when, to have those essential conversations. I am a Social Worker and for the past 17 years have had the privilege of caring for people facing a life-limiting illness. It is an intimate and profound experience - sitting alongside people as they face end-of-life. They share their hopes and fears - about living and dying - and about caring for and leaving behind those they love. Trying to protect their families but also wanting to prepare them. Whether they speak lovingly about a partner, or children, or siblings, parents or best friends… grieving these losses begins at time of diagnosis.

While treating and managing the disease is important - equally important is caring for the person diagnosed with the disease. What is truly important to them? Who is important to them? How do we provide support in a manner that is congruent with their values and wishes? How do we normalize grief following a diagnosis, and in turn, sit alongside them creating safe spaces - and time - to share their grief should they so choose? As clinicians, we can facilitate supportive interventions at any stage of illness and ideally engage the entire family. Sadly, many families - and specifically many children and youth remain uninformed following the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, largely resulting from parents need to “protect” and their fear of not knowing what to say. This phenomenon is not rare as it also extends to healthcare professionals, with many reporting fear and uncertainty as to how to best support grieving families and children. This is true whether a child has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, or the parent of a child has been diagnosed. Understandably, if the psychosocial needs of families, specifically children and youth remains unaddressed, it only serves to create additional distress for parents and caregivers.

As a Palliative Social Worker I recognize the importance of creating safe spaces and time to have these conversations - to support families in telling their stories, celebrating their connections, and should they so choose, to openly and collectively share their grief. A specific legacy project created opportunities for families to do just that - to hold on, while letting go. I have completed this project with many families facing a life-limiting disease - following diagnosis, throughout the illness, at end-of-life and following the death of a loved one. This can be completed with children of all ages and regardless of the make up of the family - large or small, we meet together and explore their understanding of the diagnosis, the impact of the illness while also celebrating and honouring connections.  That Project? While the results have been profound, the activity is, quite simply, creating a “Hug”. 

To be clear, this is not a professional boundary violation, but in fact, a creative legacy project that can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time. In obtaining consent from parents and caregivers, I explain that this is an opportunity for the family to collectively talk about the illness, share stories and experiences, communicate concerns, dispel fears, foster support and enact plans. I introduce this activity as a symbol of their unending love – and the Hug can be taken anywhere - to chemo daycare, during an admission to hospital or hospice, or even once someone has died – this “hug” is also something that can be buried or cremated and remain with a loved one forever…

I assure you this experience is more than a creative activity - it is an intimate and collaborative experience for the family to create a lasting memory. While each experience is unique and the degree to which some “patients” may be able participate varies, in each situation, the family gently accommodates their loved one.  What remains universal are the shared laughs, tears and a multitude of stories - reminders of shared experiences and memories of their lives together.

But perhaps I should explain… I feel it is important to outline the essential elements required for this intervention… Specifically, informed consent from the family, clean bed sheets, colourful markers, scissors and glitter. It is simply a matter of laying a sheet on the ground, then a family member lays down on the sheet while another family member traces their outstretched arms and outstretched fingers. After sitting up, lines are drawn to connect the tracings of each arm and then cut along the lines. Although tantamount to making a scarf – it is, more importantly the outstretched arms of their loved one, it is a personalized “Hug”. The child, or partner, sibling, parent or friend then adorns their hug with messages and images and reminders of the shared connection with their loved one - in essence, the “Hug” becomes a tangible expression of their love. 

While I involved partners, children, siblings, cousins and friends in this activity long ago I wondered, what if their loved one (or the “patient”, to be clear) also wanted to reciprocate?  I began asking patients about this and the suggestion of leaving this touching legacy was always met with resounding approval.  While this always requires patient consent and discussion throughout, I have completed this activity with people who were ambulatory as well as people who were bed-bound. While collectively engaging the individual and family, for those who are bed-bound, we carefully slide a folded sheet behind the back of their loved-one. Throughout the activity, the family shares stories and memories, while tenderly helping to hold and trace the outstretched arms and fingers on each hand - every action and movement becomes an incredibly intimate experience. In the case of pathological fracture, we have used the singular tracing of one arm to make a mirror image - completing the hug.  Taking that singular hug and laying sheets over top, additional copies are then traced for each family member. This not only engages entire families at the bedside, but also creates a lasting legacy for the surviving family. We often discuss sewing material from favourite blankets, shirts or sweaters on the reverse to preserve a tangible and personal connection.

I have completed this activity when families speak a language different from my own. Despite only being able to communicate through an Interpreter, the conversation remains seamless throughout as we create a beautiful and moving tribute for their family while they collectively support each other in their shared love and grief. While many young couples anticipate milestones like a wedding or the birth of a child, I have also facilitated this project at the bedside of the dying parent together with their young adult children, creating a space to share their hopes and stories while honouring their legacy. This supportive intervention has also bridged great distances, when families were thousands of miles apart. After completing the activity with the patient and family at the bedside, I encourage them to share the idea with extended family and friends across the country and in one specific case, family members of all ages from across the country made Hugs and sent them by courier to the bedside of their dying loved one. Their many colourful “Hugs” surrounded her when she died, each and every one told a story and was on display around her room as a meaningful and tangible connection. Much to the comfort of the family, each and every “Hug” was later buried with her. I have also completed this project with children following the death of a parent, it is especially important for those who were not informed about the illness or were unaware that death was expected. It is so essential to create a space for children to grieve alongside their families to share their thoughts, shed tears, and express the range of their feelings, including grief. We talk about what it feels like to receive hug from someone you love and the opportunity to create a lasting memento to leave with their parent as an expression of their unending connection. Although a parent - or any loved one might die before families and friends have an opportunity to say goodbye, we can still create opportunities for families to collectively share their love and express their sorrow while honouring the legacy of their loved one.  

I believe as Health Care Professionals, we have an obligation to provide empathic person and family-centred care. From time of diagnosis we have an opportunity to facilitate honest communication, and in turn, promote adaptive coping strategies for those facing a life-limiting illness. In doing so, we can provide invaluable opportunities for families to connect, and collectively process experiences from time of diagnosis through to end-of-life, and into bereavement. I feel extraordinarily privileged that families allow me into their lives - to share their stories, their love and their grief. However brief our time may be together, I hold that time as sacred and do all I can to create a safe-space to foster these connections while honouring the legacy of those living and dying.

Talking About #Death Won’t Kill You. @Kathykm @TEDTalks #Death #Education #hpm

"An unconventional death educator with an equal parts wry and wise delivery style, Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller is committed to showing her audience that talking about death and dying won’t kill you. Using stories and research, Kathy extends an invitation to view death as not a taboo subject - but rather a shared life experience. Audience members walk away with shifted perspectives and a deep understanding that talking about death, without knowing or needing all the “answers”, actually brings us closer to our loved ones than we ever imagined possible."

#Health Sentinel: Lack of #knowledge about #palliative care limiting its benefits to #patients, #hospitals. #hpm

"When Gerald’s physicians discussed options and next steps, palliative care was among them. Rozanne, a retired teacher, was familiar with hospice but unaware of palliative care as a specialized service.

'I didn’t have a clue,' she said, but added that through those services, 'our every need was met.'

Multiple studies show that, compared to awareness of hospice, “There’s significantly less familiarity with palliative care,” said Dr. Lyle Fettig, director of Indiana University School of Medicine’s Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship program centered in Indianapolis…

Palliative care, according to the New York-based Center to Advance Palliative Care, is appropriate for any age individual and at any stage of a serious illness, whether that illness is cancer or a chronic condition, such as heart or lung disease. The goal is to improve quality of life for both patient and family through a holistic, interdisciplinary team approach”.

Inpatient Hospice Palliative Care Directory free via iOS and Android.

"Although some people hope to remain at home for the duration of their illness, many people find that admission to an inpatient setting can also be helpful. The inpatient care settings in the directory include palliative care units, residential hospices and dedicated palliative care beds within local hospitals. Inpatient hospice palliative care support includes 24 hour care, specialist pain and symptom management and psychosocial support for patients and families.

The map provides access to a directory which includes more information about inpatient hospice palliative care settings across Ontario. The list of facilities below may not be complete - there may be hospice palliative care settings which are not in the directory.

For contact information and details about the facility, click on a specific location. If you want more information, contact the hospice or palliative care program directly".

Miracles Don’t Come Cheap.

"As I rushed through the hospital lobby on my way to the intensive care unit, I saw the palliative care team speaking to a young woman in a wheelchair. She was beautiful, her cheeks full and round, her mouth in a constant soft smile as she spoke. She sat regally in her chair, the red of her sweatshirt anchoring my eyes in the dim hospital lobby. She was such a vision of beauty and health that it took me a second to realize that her right leg was amputated below the knee.

As the treating doctor for this critically ill patient, I had been sure she would die. And I was wrong. Her very presence in the lobby felt like a reprimand".

The Error in ‘There’s Nothing More We Can Do’.

“ 'There’s nothing more we can do'.

These words are often spoken by a physician just before transitioning a patient to hospice and palliative care and are regrettably uttered only days, if not hours, before the person dies. These words leave no room for hope; they make a transition to comfort care a much-feared and often avoided final destination.

Yet here’s the reality: More can always be done. More important, patients know exactly the “more” that they want. The real question is: Why don’t we ask?"