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I don’t like being told what to do. When I first entered the senior care realm – when MY family members were aging and I had to respond – I was hit with all these articles and info about talking. They seemed to scream at me, “You must! You HAVE to! You’d better…” My response was to become irritated and bitter.
Truth is, I didn’t know why (we had to talk), so don’t tell me I must because that turns into a should. And dammit, I hate ‘shoulds’.
Then I was suddenly faced with a ‘Have To’. Oh boy. That wasn’t fun. And all those ‘They- people’, the ones that had encouraged and cajoled and said I should be talking – I hate to admit I allowed myself to get there. I was way past the ‘should’ and now into the ‘Have To’. Not happy, and precious little time to do this talk-thing.
By that time, I had a sense of ‘Why’ because I could now see needs right in front of me, but I didn’t really know any ‘How”. I am going to cover some Whys (and guess what, it is not all gloom!) and in my next segment I will deliver some really good ‘How Tos”. Deal?
I will admit, the ‘Why’s do have their place and some logic to boot, but y’all know me, I am going to see the positive. Stay with me here. Some good things are coming about this talking stuff.
I wish to touch on the ‘Why’ because there is an opportunity for choice here, and who doesn’t want choice in their lives?
In healthcare, I guess in any ‘care’ talk before the How should come the Why. So, why talk?
‘They’ all said “Because we must”, or should, or “we’d better”, or “it would serve us well”.
Think about what I just wrote. Must, Should, Better and Would Serve Well. Do you want to operate from a place of
I’d Better, or
It Will Serve Me Well?
Consider where is your place of power.
There is another reason we might talk: because we ‘GNOW’ it is time, or soon will be. ‘GNOW’ is a mashup. It’s a ‘Gnaw + Know’. I use this word to signify those times when something is gnawing at us, and we know it. Have you ever felt that?
I imagine that when Hillel wrote the famous phrase “If not now, when?” he was ‘In The GNOW’.
When I found myself in the camp of ‘Had To,’ I sure wished I had pursued that ‘would serve me well’ approach. From that uncomfortable spot, I realized that my options had become more limited (yikes), the time was nigh or short, and I had that big, fat feeling that I did not know what I needed to know to get to where I needed to be- caught short. Not comfy.
Still, many of us do not talk.
To this point, I will pass around a plate of F.U.D.G.E. As you may know, F.U.D.G.E. stands for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, Guilt, and Exhaustion. We talked about this previously. Help yourself to one or more pieces.
Where talking about healthcare or eldercare is concerned, there can be an incredible amount of F.U.D.G.E. and IDKWIDK (I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know). This is the intersection where Nancy works, right here.
There is reticence from patients and their loved ones alike:
“Look, things are OK, really. We are managing. No need to bring anything up yet”.
“I want to talk – they won’t talk with me”. ‘They’ could be family, even medical providers or insurance companies. You want to and they don’t. Or they want to and you don’t.
“We don’t know what to do or say – or where to begin.”
Know these two things from me:
- If there is a sudden healthcare crisis, it may not be fully prepared for everything that comes your way but you can know that I and others exist to assist, OK?
- Because talking is important (and often, we don’t know how to start), I will follow up today’s segment with a segment on how to begin and offer some crafty tips. I’ve been known to title it as ‘Crafty Lead-ins to Difficult Conversations’.
Let’s shift from should. Let’s get to the good.
Everything we read and hear seems that everyone extols the benefits of talking. Yet so many of us do not
Let’s flip this whole talking-thing right now. Cast aside the ‘should’ or ‘you’d better’s and even the ‘GNOW’ (gnawing-knowing) and focus on the good.
What if I told you there are gifts?
In talking about talking, one big ‘Why’ is that talking delivers gifts! They arrive as we are doing it.
Insight. Camaraderie. Ideas. Solution. Options. Next Steps. Hope. Power. Peace. Do I have your attention?
It could begin with a simple “Let’s grab some coffee” with a friend. Could be a chat during a timeout, or a breather during my workday. Could be during a networking opportunity. Could be during an invited event, a nicey-nice tete-a-tete, or could happen in a ‘here’s one more thing I got to do’ -moment.
When do these gifts manifest? What do they look like?
There could be shared experiences, commiseration, or some ‘same-paging’. The exchange or an interesting update. The learning of something new, even revelation. The putting yourself in another one’s shoes, or the feeling of validation as someone placed theirs in yours and understands.
I don’t know if this has happened to you, but it sure happens to me: many times, the solutions appear inside the conversation. I’ll learn solution from somebody else who’s had a similar experience, yes. But sometimes, neither of us has had this new set of circumstances, and as I’m talking, an option comes to mind (and out of my mouth), and I realize it could be a solution. Something to try. Something to explore. Hope.
Has that ever happened to you? You could exchange with a colleague, professional, or even a stranger. It could be from listening or listened to. The ‘sound boarding’ often does the trick. Obtaining a different perspective and looking at something from another vantage point is an advantage. ‘Add-Vantage’.
Sorry – Y’all know I like to make up words that do a better job than one I can muster from conventional language. I use ‘GNOW’. I create ‘soundboard-ing’ and use it as a verb. I use ‘same-paging’ as action, and now this noun ‘Add-vantage’. Please always bear with me (and I appreciate your support).
As a professional in a healthcare or service capacity, in my case, Patient Advocacy, you will hear me continually encouraging people to talk. ”Have The Conversation” has been my steady cry since 2013. And there are many topics to talk about and all kinds of conversations. In my advocacy work, we are sure talking; have y’all heard about The Pie?
Those of you who spend any time around me or are a client or loved one will know that we talk about Six (6) pieces of The PIE: Medical, Legal, Financial, Insurance, Housing and Support. These are the portions of my work with folks. Lotsa talking. Lotsa talking to get to that place of knowledge, power and sound decisions. I love to have PIE with people!
Another critical aspect of talking is the fact that talking needs to occur often, or all along. Topics and talks should be “evergreen”. Talks revisited. End one conversation by agreeing there will be another, a next, several, always. No “one and done” here.
Prime examples of this notion can be found in planning for care as people change or circumstances do. There should be lots of talking in and along all stages of the game, about housing, for example, or our advance directives. More talking as we learn more about the decisions that hand and as we (learn to) assess ourselves, what we want, and how we will get there.
The revisits are so important. Another example, a legal one, is revisiting your legal documents relative to your wishes. We can agree to talk again, at intervals or at life events. A one-and-done notion does not work here. For instance, I will encounter people who have prepared their wills, alright – ‘three grandchildren ago’. Or they proudly tell me they’d designated an agent with Healthcare Power of Attorney in 2006 (but that person is no longer the best fit to serve).
There’s an elder law attorney I know who lectures that he returns his own legal documents on a regular interval – every election year! Whether or not the situation has changed, it is essential to talk continually. Doing so can confirm that things are set up the way we want them to be. There’s power in that and peace.
I have the great honor and pleasure of talking with so many people as they get their gifts: we talk about housing, how to find a specialist, and how are the medical systems in Omaha. What happens after a knee replacement? What is dementia, and Alzheimer’s, really? What will I need?
Now when talking about talking, I can’t resist the opportunity to throw in when talking about talking the corny schtick that I use to usher in talking or tell folks about what I do or when I teach. I will often say (to get their attention and diffuse any apprehension)
“I help people meet the Deweys”. After receiving a quizzical look, I will go on to say
“You know the Deweys. There’s Who Dewey, What Dewey, When Dewey, Where Dewey, Why Dewey, and their cousin, How.”
Then after an easy laugh, we all go on to talk about the matter before us.
Perhaps we’ll add laughs to the gifts gained from talking. I am simply pointing out that there are gifts for you: Insight. Camaraderie. Ideas. Solution. Options. Next Steps. Hope. Power. Peace.
Next time, in Part 2 of this important topic and because many folks ask for information on this, I will talk with you about difficult, tricky, and crafty ways to start conversations. Let’s learn how to go get those gifts because you know that I am all about bringing the solution.
Struggling with communication can be a daunting experience, but don’t hesitate to reach out for help! I’m here as an ally and ready to assist you or anyone in need.