Image above: Brian Blase, Special Assistant to the President on Healthcare Policy
I was in Washington D.C. recently for the winter meeting of members of the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation group. A vibrant lineup of speakers was there to share their insights on the current state of healthcare and hospice.
One surprise speaker was Brian Blase, Special Assistant to the President on Healthcare Policy. I admit it – I was initially skeptical of this young person who I assumed could not possibly have any meaningful insights about our work of caring for the frail and dying citizens. That’s what happens sometimes when we are “experts” in our field; too often, we’re not open to new ideas or others’ points of view, because, after all, we’re the ones with the years of experience and/or education and...
Image above: Mary J. Labyak at the NHPCO Gala 2009
"I think hospice is the greatest single honor that has ever occurred in my life. To have the opportunity to be a part of building something that makes such a difference to society. And I think what is really important is that hospice is a dream that’s come true, and a dream that’s grown beyond all of our expectations.
In terms of values, it’s a dream that didn’t come out of academia, it didn’t come out of research, it didn’t come out of organized medicine. It was the dream of people themselves that had lost a loved one and simply wanted to reach out and see if they could make that path different for others. And it was above all about human dignity, no matter how long life was.
And I think it has grown so much not because we were smart in building it, but because we had the capacity to listen to what our patients and communities needed and to...
Image above: Dr. Bill Thomas and Patti Moore
What if most of what we know about the process of growing older is wrong? What if we could free ourselves from our presumptions about aging’s inevitable decline, and by doing so come to a new, richer understanding of what our late-life years could and should be?
Visionaries are those who see how tied they are to all we “know” – all the conventional assumptions we mostly accept without examination - and choose to cut that cord, to untether themselves from those limitations, and imagine a better world. From among them spring the innovators – the mavericks who kick-start revolutions and movements that change the world. Our aging society desperately needs its visionaries and innovators to lead the way, because so much of what we accept now is simply unacceptable – especially for those of us in the Baby Boomer generation who aren’t willing to settle for less from life than we’ve had in the...
Whether or not we make New Year’s resolutions, most of us find ourselves looking for ways to improve as the new year arrives. If your goal for 2018 is to become an exemplary leader, here are some ideas to help you get there.
1. Support your staff: Hospice work can take its toll. When a staff member has had several deaths in a week, it has an emotional impact. Supporting one another is vital to maintaining emotional stamina. We must treat each other as we treat the patients and families we care for; with great respect, understanding and kindness. Most of all CARE. Care about the human beings offering the service you market, and care from your heart.
2. Get out of your office and interact with staff and patients and families: I get it – there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you have to do as a leader. But unless you have a ground-level view of how things are working (or not) in your organization, how can you manage effectively? The...
As 2017 draws to its close most of us are going to find ourselves reflecting on the year that’s passing, and taking stock of our personal balance sheet to see how we did. Did we squander our capital – our time, our health, our relationships – or did we build on it, by following through with our good intentions and doing just a little better in some of those spheres than we had in previous years?
Making this kind of personal reckoning can be frustrating, because our intentions so often outstrip our actions. We all want to be more mindful and more intentional – I certainly do! – but life has other plans and we’re so often caught up in dealing with what’s coming at us in the moment that we lose the clarity that the long view brings. The holidays are difficult for people, I think, because they shine a bright light on how we’ve used our time on earth in that last 365 days,...
Time to warm up the crystal ball, and kick off the annual roundup of trends to watch in hospice for 2018. Some of them are encouraging; others we’re just going to have to grin and bear. Hopefully all of them will support us in the vital work we do as a new generation of people with different needs and expectations around the end of life experience become our patients.
Here’s what I and others see coming down the pike:
1. How we die – and where – will continue to change. The people we served in hospice used to be (and to some extent, still are) the Greatest Generation. But now the first wave of Baby Boomers are approaching the end of life, and their needs and wants are very different than those of their generally more stoic and matter of fact parents. We’ll see increasing demand for support for living – and dying – in place, as well as experimental and alternative therapies, spirituality, and new kinds of communities as the...
In honor of the beautiful holiday of Thanksgiving I want to share a story about saying "thank you". Have you ever had a friend that simply made you want to be a better person just by knowing them? Laura Carmichael was that person for me. Ms. Laura was my role model for living a purposeful life, enjoying each day, giving back in small and large ways and always saying “Thank You”.
Laura had the corner market on writing “thank you” notes. Her notes were legendary, no sooner had the gift been delivered, than she was at the post office with her thank you note ready to mail. Ms. Laura probably had heavenly choirs singing each time her delicate fingers hit the typewriter keys. She penned her notes until her hands had such a tremor that at age 101 she couldn’t write legibly so used the trusty Royal.
For over 60 years Ms. Laura clipped the good news from the local newspaper, accomplishments by ordinary people, and sent them a...
Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you go to work each day? It is simply for the paychex? Or the insurance? Or is it because you too want to make a difference in the world? And I would ask you... are you making a difference? What is it that you are doing each day to ease suffering and empower others.
Let's talk about empowering others. It comes in all sorts of ways. As part of my consulting work, i facilitate workshops and retreats, and I love this kind of work because it allows me to see people with appreciative eyes. When we talk about our superpowers, we are not talking about x-ray vision, or leaping tall buildings, but rather the special strengths we bring to our teams. The qualities of character or personality we bring to our teams are often characterized are often shrug off as "it's just who we are".
At a recent workshop with a senior team, I asked them what they liked best about their job. One of...
Mission, Purpose and Passion.
The last of these is PASSION. So if you Mission is your overarching architecture of the building, and the purpose is what you are doing inside that building, then PASSION is the electricity that runs it.
Mission and Purpose without PASSION is like having the logs in the fireplace and not having a match to get it started.
PASSION is the energy that's needed to move your Mission forward, because when all three are present, and they are all in alignment ... it really is magic.
Work becomes easy, obstacles melt away, challenges become opportunities, and work is something you do because it is your life, not because it is your job.
When I was working at the Health Services, I thought being a clinical nurse practitioner would be terrific. My personal Mission of serving those in need was present, my Purpose of improving the health of those in served was being met, but I didn't have any PASSION. There was no spark to ignite...
Come back with me to November 22, 1995. I'm standing next to the bedside of one of the most beloved people in my life... my brother Michael, and he's dying.
It's painful to watch him wasting away. The sense of helplessness is profound. And yet he is surrounded by this wonderful group of people in this hospice facility who are making the experience of death one of dignity and grace instead of fear and despair.
On that day in 1995, I had been a Hospice Administrator for over 10 years. I could tell you the rules and regulations, the staffing patterns, and the budget. Hospice was in my head. It was my job.
But on that day... that day in 1995, standing next to my brothers bed, hospice came into my heart. And I have never been the same.
In my three decades of working in hospice, all across the U.S., I've discovered there are certain things that separate good hospices from great hospices. And it usually doesn't have...