My Dad Dropping Dead: 3 Lessons I Learned About Human Nature – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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My father Hank passed away suddenly this summer at the age of 65.  While he wasn’t in the greatest health, this was a huge shock to our family.

I have been outspoken my whole career about the need for all of us to have wills and advance directives.  So naturally I hassled my Dad into creating his over a decade ago.  And create them he did.

Hank was extremely clear about what he did and did not want for funeral arrangements.  But some of what he did want was extremely unconventional (at least for our family).  Click here to see a 2 minute video of the story:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0EzaGAOll0

For years I have been adamant that every adult should have end of life documents.  Countless times I have heard from people that, “my kids will just decide” or “my children will know best.”  My response has always been: are you sure they know what you want?  And if they do know will they be strong enough to advocate for your wishes if they are not popular with others?  Here’s what I learned about human nature (and myself) from this experience:

  1. You may not know your loved one as well as you think.  I knew my Dad pretty well.  Despite this, if he had not written down his wishes, I would not have known he would not want a traditional funeral.  If I did know, I don’t know if I would have remembered when I was in such a state of shock.
  2. You may be at risk to succumbing from pressure from others.  Even if you are strong-willed, you may feel pressure from others in the family and/or healthcare providers (in advance directive situations).  Even though my aunts did not pressure my siblings and me at all, I know that I felt pressure to consider going against some of Hank’s wishes since they deviated from our family’s traditions.
  3. You may personally be tempted to go off course.  Even though Hank did have all of his wishes clearly in writing, I was startled how in an emotional moment I considered not honoring all of his directions because they weren’t what I necessarily wanted.  While we did ultimately honor his choices, even a strong advocate can have a weak moment.

If my family and I struggled this much when we had precise detailed information in front of us, what happens when the people that love you are not left written instructions? Chaos.  Arguments.  Confusion. Who needs that when you are trying to grieve and absorb a painful loss?

I am so grateful to my Dad for making that very sad and shocking day a little simpler for all of us.

Do your loved ones a favor.  Give them a road map to your wishes.  Talk about it this holiday season.  Then make an appointment with your attorney for the New Year.

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.

Does The Patient Want To Be Featured On Social Media? – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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Have you observed the latest trend on social media?  It’s not a new meme or hashtag.  It’s the phenomenon of people posting about loved ones who are ill or even dying.  I certainly understand why it’s happening.  It probably seems like the easiest way to keep everyone in your friends and family network in the loop.  But have those who post considered whether or not the patient wants to be featured on social media?

In the last six months I have observed the following:

  1. Selfies of family members at a hospice patient’s bedside posing with a person who appears to be sleeping or at least half-asleep.
  2. Videos of patients who have dementia, are recovering from strokes, and/or doing rehab exercises.
  3. Lengthy, personal updates about a patient’s health that are several paragraphs long.  Some of these posts include detailed information on diagnosis, medications, surgeries, and prognosis.  Many of these updates feature graphic descriptions of symptoms the patient is experiencing.

Perhaps these patients are well aware that their health progress will be featured on social media.  Or maybe the family members believe there is implied consent for posting.  After all, Millennial and Generation Z patients may very well assume that such photos or videos of themselves will be uploaded straight to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even Snapchat.  But the vast majority of photographs and videos I am seeing in hospital or nursing home settings are of Baby Boomers and Traditionalist who may not realize their health status is being shared.

What can we do?

Family member & friends:  If you want to post about a sick or dying loved one, ask if he or she is okay with it.  While many family members will understand if you send out an e-mail or update a private page like www.lotsahelpinghands.org so close relatives are in the know, many may object to broad-based updates to all of your extensive network of contacts (and their contacts, depending on your privacy settings).

Also, consider the last time you took a sick day.  Would you welcome the prospect of someone posting a picture or video of you?

Healthcare professionals:  If you observe this behavior, remind family caregivers that they should seek the loved one’s permission before sharing.  Talk to them about HIPPA, confidentiality, as well as respecting the dignity of their loved ones.  Suggest that they consider more private ways to share information such as www.lotsofhelpinghands.org.

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.

Why You Need to Buy Into the Age Diversity Movement – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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My most requested keynote title for healthcare conferences is called Navigating Communication With Different Generations: Reducing Drama And Conflict In Healthcare.  Why?  I believe it’s because many of us still haven’t bought into the concept that generational affiliation is just another way we are diverse.  Does generational affiliation define anyone?  No!  But it does influence how we think and communicate.  This goes for patients, caregivers and colleagues in the healthcare workplace.

Another reason healthcare professionals are hungry for this discussion is because a large percentage are reporting that they themselves or others in their organization are experiencing ageism or reverse ageism.  Each time I provide this keynote, I poll the audience ahead of time.  I have not encountered an audience where this was not an issue.  If healthcare professionals feel ageism and reverse ageism from colleagues and managers, I can’t imagine that this doesn’t also impact our patients and their caregivers.

If you want to reduce drama and conflict in your healthcare workplace while providing better service to patients and clients, consider the acronym AGE.  Accept that generational diversity is part of what makes all of us unique.  Get real about your biases.  Many of us have bias against another generation.  Try to work through it and understand it.  If you stereotype a generation, educate yourself about the facts.  Finally, Expect commonalities among persons who are Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z.  Just know that generation doesn’t totally define them.

If your organization could benefit from a deeper dive into this topic, check out this page:  http://jenerationshealth.com/keynotes/

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.

 

 

Ireland, Italy & Yemen: What Do These Countries Have To Do With Dementia? – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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Communicating with someone who has dementia can be like visiting a foreign country.  In a chapter of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One,  I discuss how early stages is like heading to Ireland, mid stages is like visiting Italy and late stages is similar to traveling to Yemen.  On Marcia Teele’s radio show, Caregiver Solutions, I go into detail about how viewing dementia communication like foreign travel can help you.

Check out the interview here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCdZktWiMx0&feature=em-lss

 

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.

Three Ways To Enhance Leadership Communication In An Age-Diverse Workplace – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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If you only read one business book this year, make it Dianna Booher’s Communicate Like A Leader.  If like most leaders you are concerned about better communicating with customers and staff of different age groups, here’s what’s in it for you:

  1. Communicate Like A Leader offers advice on why and how to stop “hoarding” information in the workplace. If you work with Millennials or Generation Z, this is crucial as these generations demand transparency.
  2. Younger workers typically dread meetings while many older workers seem to keep scheduling them.  Booher shares strategies for determining if a meeting is necessary and how to be sure you get return on investment for your team’s time.
  3. Most organizations need to include social media as part of a marketing and/or sales strategy.  Is your team using it strategically?  Everyone—including Millennials who many of us assume understand almost everything about social media– will benefit by considering this book’s ideas.

Communicate Like A Leader offers simple tips you can implement immediately to improve your communication as a leader, particularly in an intergenerational workplace.  Next week check out my blog on how Communicate Like A Leader can help working caregivers!

 

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.