Archive for the ‘Caregiving’ Category

One of the things I had to break myself from doing when I spoke was splitting parts of myself. I can look back and see how I had confused indecision with no commitment. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about let me give you an example. I would be discussing an issue and would find myself saying, “A part of me….” How is that possible? Did I really think that only the cells in my right pinky believed a particular thing and the rest of body was in revolt? I’ve spoke with many people over the years that try and exile a part of the body that is causing them trouble but that never seemed to work. Unifying the body, mind, and spirit is the only path to health and healing.

If we divide ourselves in physical, emotional, and spiritual beings it’s like having three people fighting for limited resources. When we unify our forces we create an incubator for healing. It’s that incubator that provides a safe place to nurture a strategy for growth, renewal, and peace. It takes some work, but it reaps huge rewards.

Dr. Jeff Miller shared, “Body and soul cannot be separated for purposes of treatment. For they are one, and indivisible. Sick minds must be healed as well as sick bodies.” Having had the privilege of spending thousands of hours with individuals facing chronic and life-threatening illness I understand the importance of a unified front. You can’t play the game we did as kids, if mom says no ask dad, because we diminish the odds for health and healing.

We have to remember that when we’re facing emotionally draining situations our bodies defenses are compromised. The ideal situation is that when one of the three components that makes us whole is feeling compromised the other two can step in and bolster the compromised part of our being. If you’re emotionally drained your faith may take over, sending in reinforcements helping until you’re emotionally restored. (I’m not talking about mental illness, that often requires the help of a mental health or medical professional)

We all have to remember that all three parts of our being won’t be firing on all engines all the time. There is a dance that happens between the three and understanding that our being is always in a fluid state will make the ebb and flow more natural and not so scary!

Experiencing the ebb and flow of the physical, emotional, and spiritual parts of your life?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore how to create a natural state of balance with body, mind, and spirit?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2


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Colorado Public Radio interviewed a woman who recently wrote a book about her experience with the medical community. What happened? She was wrongly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I’m sure you’re going how does that happen, but unfortunately doctors aren’t perfect. We should always remember they say that doctors “practice medicine”; it’s not a perfect science. Unfortunately the troubles are on both the doctor’s and the patient’s sides of the fence so we have to develop strategies to overcome these upsetting outcomes.

The new director of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Dr. Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, talked about in the age of Google many patients are coming for medical care with their own diagnoses. On the flip side, Jerome Groopman, author of “Second Opinions”, and “How Doctors Think” shares that doctors have been trained to make a diagnosis in the first twenty second of their interaction with the patient.

Information is great, but too much information can be harmful. Wynia talked about a phenomenon called Anchoring Bias. Anchoring bias is when we lock our thoughts and decision around a particular fact or group of facts to the point that we become unable to hear any other opinions or possibilities.

Personally I have been guilty of self-diagnosis. I’ve taken all my symptoms, entered them in the computer and waited for the diagnosis. I know that it’s not definitive because I may be experiencing certain symptoms, but without further testing or exams I can only account for those I can see or feel. However, I can see where it would be comforting to walk in thinking you know what’s ailing you because the unknown is quite scary.

On the doctor’s end we also need to address anchoring bias. Doctors are trained to believe that A+B=C. Unfortunately, there are too many variables in the human body. Groopman recommends that after receiving a diagnosis asking the doctor, “If it weren’t X, what else might it be? What other organs are nearby that may influence your decision?” The key is dislodging the provider’s stronghold on the diagnosis they believe is 100% certain.

Unfortunately diagnostics are sometimes fluid. It’s important to remember that healthcare is a team effort. We, the patient, have to be forthright with our providers and the providers have to be willing to listen to the patient’s entire story. Detectives can’t solve cases without all the information and the same is true for medical diagnoses.

The one thing I encourage you to anchor to is the idea of optimal health. I had some major pulmonary issues earlier in the year. It would have been easy for the doctor, knowing I have an asthma diagnosis, to simply go with the pulmonary diagnosis. Instead, he ran a plethora of cardiac tests to rule out the possibility that cardiac issues didn’t spark my pulmonary issues. It was interesting because on my annual visit with my dermatologist I told him about the numerous cardiac tests I had and he was glad that my primary care physician expanded his sights beyond my obvious breathing issues, reinforcing my confidence in my doctor.

Be aware that we’re all subject to anchor bias, and not just in medical care. You’d be surprised how we can all be like a dog with a bone when it decreases our anxiety. Health and healing requires that we not look at healthcare as a one-way street. There are often many avenues to be explored and getting to the heart of the matter increases the accuracy of diagnoses!

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore possibilities of health and healing through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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On Monday I talked about my visit to the Medical campus at The University of Colorado Heath Sciences Center’s monthly ethics discussion. This month they discussed Physician Assisted Death (PAD). The first thing that caught my attention was the shift from Physician Assisted Suicide to Physician Assisted Death. What caused the shift in terminology? Is it a way to make the legislatures in our country look upon these actions differently? Does it take away the stigma of suicide? Does it differentiate between suicide as we traditionally think of it and as a choice in dying?

The speaker presented some very interesting statistics that has been collected since 1997 about those who choose Physician Assisted Death. The most startling was that of all the prescriptions written with the intention of PAD only 64% actually follow through on taking the medications to end their life. Here are some other interesting statistics:

*74% were over 65 years of age

*54% had a college degree or higher

*85% were enrolled in hospice

*94% were insured

*65% had a cancer diagnosis

*94% were Caucasian

*62% were men

I share these statistics because we need to understand the outcomes when we institute societal, cultural, and legal shifts related to end-of-life care.

I’ve spent over twenty years sharing the journey of those facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I’ve always had a copy of Derek Humphry’s book Final Exit on my bookshelf. I’ve had numerous clients ask to borrow the book as they think about end-of-life care. In each of the cases I have always found that having the book available didn’t encourage taking one’s own life, but it did take the taboo out of the topic. It opened up many dialogues about suffering, pain, depression, assumptions about life, and a host of other topics.

When we de-stigmatize PAD we can begin to have open and honest conversations concerning advanced directives. These directives are important not only between the patient and the medical provider, but for the person who is your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Everyone needs to be on the same page. There are only four states that have PAD in the United States. I know that many more states are going to begin these conversations and that’s an important step, allowing us all to have options in our end-of-life care!!

Are you and your family facing a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Looking to explore your views about end-of-life care through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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Illness is a difficult experience and is usually something that is dealt with in the privacy of one’s home. I guess that times are changing because there seems to be a new trend on television; shows revolving around illness. I guess the networks and cable have had a topic epiphany; it’s chic to be sick.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m watching the two shows that have come to my attention. While watching the shows I’m riding on the coattails of the writers looking at the themes they are bringing to consciousness giving the public an insiders view of illness.

This summer saw ABC Family launched Chasing Life, the story of a twenty-four year old just starting out in her career as a reporter who is diagnosed with leukemia. Of course there are a few side stories that make it a drama, but it does touch on the process of being diagnosed, going through tests, the social ramifications of the diagnosis, and at the end of the season the start of treatment.

The show punctuates the common themes of denial after a diagnosis, how illness interrupts life’s plans, and the importance of having a support group/team to help you through the process of health and healing. I commend ABC Family for taking on this precarious topic. It’s not a mainstream storyline, but the cable network is exploring real life scenarios giving us a glimpse of the world of illness.

The other show that began this past week is the Red Band Society. Fox is taking on the topic of illness amongst kids who are in a long-term inpatient Children’s Hospital. The show has only aired one episode so it’s difficult to know how the storylines will progress. We’re only getting the back stories of the patients and it may take some time to see how the writers attack the multiple issues related to serious illness.

I’m glad that shows are beginning to emerge around the theme of illness. Illness is something that will touch all of our lives. My hope is that these shows will give us a platform to discuss these topics that are usually taboo. I hope these shows will give those facing a chronic or life-threatening illness to seek support from groups, a therapist, a coach, or spiritual director.

Making illness the central theme of a show takes guts. I hope the shows make it because we need this type of cultural exposure to the issues surrounding illness and healing!

Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Searching for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to explore health and healing through creativity?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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It has been a while since I wrote a post focused on caregivers but I had to address the amazing souls walking this earth; the caregiver. Caregivers have been called co-patients because when an individual is diagnosed with an illness they too face many of the same issues as the person with the disease. Those in relationships with the patient experience the same life interruption and on some level there is a death that occurs for them on the emotional and spiritual levels.

Thanks for Facebook I saw this commercial about a couple that warmed my heart, renewed my faith in love and relationships, and showed how caregivers are plugged in on the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the person they’re caring for. The commercial shows the relationship between a husband and wife and the wife has Alzheimer’s disease. The love and compassion this man shows is amazing and serves as the gold standard for love and compassion. It also punctuates the level of devotion he has toward making the end of his wife’s life as enjoyable as possible by plugging in to the things that gave her joy during earlier parts of her life.

Aside from the stress and strain of being a caregiver, I learned from this commercial the importance of paying attention each and every day that I’m with the one I love. We never know when we will have to rely on that information to make the life of the one we love more comfortable and peaceful. The knowledge caregivers acquire over time are not only an archive of their relationship but an exhibition of love, understanding, and matching one’s words and thoughts to one’s actions.

Please watch this video and think about someone in your life (doesn’t have to be a spouse) and a special moment, activity, food, or some other defining experience that may bring him or her joy in his or her time of need. You’d be surprised how the little things have a huge impact!

Are you a caregiver and looking for resources?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to express your love and devotion as a caregiver through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GregKatz2

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I was listening to the audio of Andy Andrews book, Mastering the Seven Decisions. It is the follow-up to his monumental book The Traveler’s Gift. Andrews talks about the seven decisions not as suggestions but as principles. He makes a point of stating their principles because principles are universal. They aren’t specific to any one person but to everyone. His seven decisions (or principles) were derived from reading the autobiographies/biographies/memoirs or more than two hundred people. He found that the challenges these people faced and the tools and strategies to overcome their challenges could be reduced to seven decisions.

The idea that principles are universal makes me think about how important it is to find these gems. It’s one of those things I’m on the lookout for and when I hear it, read it, or experience it, I grab hold tightly and see how to make the principle (a universal strategy) more conscious in my life.

I was listening to the acceptance speech by Michael Sam, the first openly gay pro football player drafted to the St. Louis Rams, who received the Courage Award at the ESPYS. In his speech Sam referred to another great athlete Arthur Ashe. He shared Ashe’s philosophy of, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” This simple three-part statement took me by surprise. How could something so simple, so true, so applicable to everyone’s life not be needlepointed on every cushion in the land?

The first part of the principle “start where you are”, can it get any simpler. It requires us to make a personal assessment of what’s going on in our lives, in the now! It doesn’t matter how things used to be, but what is your current reality. This is very important for all of us who have experienced any type of life interruption such as an illness, divorce, bankruptcy, or other challenge. Where are you today and on the map of life that’s where you put the red dot that says, “You are here!”

The second part of the life principle, “Use what you have” is just practical. There are no imaginary resources. If you need more tools in your life toolbox seek them out. You can augment “what you have” by taking a class, attending a support group, going to therapy, or seeking counsel of a spiritual advisor.

The final part of the principle’s trilogy, “Do what you can” requires you to take action. If you’re facing an illness how will you support your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs? If you’re looking for love you have to get out in the world; UPS doesn’t deliver life partners to your door. If you’re having a spiritual crisis finding support, going on retreat, setting out on a pilgrimage, or attending a service are the things you’re able to do to change the situation.

We know that Arthur Ashe came to these principles based on a long career as a champion tennis player as well as someone who eventually died of AIDS. The challenges in his life were eased because he lived by these principles. He learned how to make the necessary accommodations to live a full life.

What will you do today with Ashe’s three-fold principle?

Facing some form of life interruption?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Want to implement Ashe’s life principles through art?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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I think we underestimate the wisdom young children. They are, for the most part, unencumbered with the stress of daily life and they experience each day as a wonder. Having the capacity to live in the moment dissolves over time as we inherit the norms of society. Unfortunately, that inheritance is a detriment to our well- being and can have grave consequences. So why are we so attached to things and the perfect outcome?

Recently I had the joy of spending a week with my family at a beach resort in the Caribbean. It shouldn’t’ be a surprise that at the edge of the water kids, including my nephew, were building sand castles and forts all along the shore. They worked vigorously and experienced great joy. When they finished their architectural wonders they simply walked away, not even taking pictures of their engineering accomplishments. In addition, later that day my mother told me that my nephew asked her to report back on whether or not the building was still standing. How can kids simply walk away from something they worked on for hours, and during the process become invested in the outcome (or do they)?

I’m also blessed to have witnessed the creation of those amazing sand paintings created by Buddhist monks. I’ve watched on and off for days as these focused spiritual beings create highly detailed paintings made of colored sand. Their devotion to the process is unmatched. This is part of their spiritual practice. The amazing thing, and needs to be seen, is that at the end of the process they take a fan and blow the entire painting away. The board where the painting rested is wiped clean. Hours and days of work and all they have is a blank slate, could you do that?

In both cases we bear witness to the practice of impermanence and nonattachment. It’s not something we’re familiar with in our culture, and unfortunately is at the root of much pain, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. What we’re most attached to is our assumption of good health. When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness our assumptions are shattered, our sand castles and paintings are blown away, but they cause enormous distress.

Are we able to become attached to other things such as perseverance for peace in our soul? Are we capable of becoming attached to attaining our higher purpose? Is it possible to become attached to nonattachment? I know I’m getting a bit out there, but we grab on for dear life for so many things we have no control over because the locus of control is external. What if we focused more on the things we do have control over like being kind to others and ourselves.

What are you willing to allow the water to wash away, or a fan blow away (literally and figuratively)?

Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com

Hoping to find out how art can improve your healing process?  Visit http://www.timetolivecreatively.com

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