On Being “Ill At Ease”

Mar 20, 2023 | Aging Successfully

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Nancy RuffnerI am not at 100% today.

I thought about whether to share this with you or simply pull out some previous content and some makeup and carry on with my video and post. I decided that I am just livin’ life like everyone else, with its ups and downs, good times and challenging times and that I felt OK about sharing this with all of you. Today I will share with you the benefits of going through a challenging time.

I don’t feel good, but I know why. I have undergone some necessary medical intervention, and while all that went extremely well, there is a period of recuperation, naturally. Yes, I don’t feel good physically, and I am less than par emotionally.

My true discomfort comes from not being 100%. I am not used to being anything less! Right now, I am vacillating between unrealistically holding myself accountable to “Be 100% all the time” and listening to friends, professionals, and providers all tell me to take my deserved time. To allow myself some time to heal. Hmmm, I find myself in that intersection where I encounter so many of my clients. I am truly “Ill At Ease”.

My inner critic, my commentary, my running dialogue with myself, and my press release to others have been about my realization that I am walking my talk. Self-care, healing, all that. Yup, I’m taking what I dish out, but there is more to this: the newer, miraculous thing for me is that I’m learning.

In truth, it is not easy for me to accept help, and it is not easy for me to ask for help. I am so doggedly independent. I always have been since I was a little kid. Yet I’ve had to do two things recently that are alien to me: to ask for help and then to accept help.

I tell myself, “If this seems familiar, Nancy, it’s because you’ve been at this intersection so many times with patients and their loved ones. Now the shoe is on the other foot”. I believe it’s a good thing for me.

There have been many good things that have occurred recently. For which I am grateful: as a Solo Ager and one who recently relocated meant, I’ve had to establish new medical providers and build a team to guide and guide me through treatment and recuperation. That is a WIN.

I’ve had an outpouring of those concerned friends and professionals, and man, am I grateful for that! I hear you, and I am accepting your well-wishes. I am grateful for the learning.

There’s more! I have been able to walk my talk relative to revisiting my Advance Directives. You see, I had a short stay in a hospital, an overnight stay for observation. That meant familiarizing myself with what that means cost and insurance-wise and understanding what might be covered and what my financial responsibilities may be so early into a calendar year with its deductions. Understood.

Another good task has been to revisit my designations for Healthcare Power of Attorney and update those people to bring them into the loop regarding my treatment plans. I was able to revisit my legal documents and utilize contingency planning. As it turned out, one of my Healthcare Agents would be out of the country, which meant an opportunity (and I see it as such) to have quality a conversation with my alternate Healthcare Agent. I could talk about my preferences and plans. I used my sounding board and support. That felt good and continues to feel good, as this person follows up frequently.

The over-preparer in me, this patient advocate, had a bit of a field day both with revisiting my POA documents, code status (DNR), and my supportive tool called Five Wishes.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Five Wishes, this booklet is one terrific tool and does its job for me in multiple ways. First, it is a Thinking Tool. It makes me think about what I want if I become incapacitated. (And in this case, I could confirm or edit, and I was ahead of the game. That’s power and peace all rolled up).

The Five Wishes serves as a Documentation Tool for my wishes, and it could, if I wanted it to, serve as the POA document itself were I to have it notarized. Thirdly, it’s a terrific Talking Tool. The Q&A format allows me to state, document, and share my wishes.  Lastly, it serves me as a Teaching Tool when I am in education-mode as a Patient Advocate, encouraging thought, documentation, and conversation surrounding healthcare.

Another confirmation or “Feel Good Indicator” is that doing everything seemed in sync with me. It seemed every bit in keeping with my two favorite mantras:

“Out of the problem and into the solution” (where I like to hang out), and

“We can all have a say about how things will go and where will end up.”

I had solid conversations with providers and the people that are important to me. To prepare for treatment and hospitalization, I also created a “Nancy Ruffner Face Sheet”, a document to provide at a glance information for all the folks on my team. It held the provider, the procedure, and my healthcare agent prominently displayed and with contact information for all.

The location of my permanent documents in my home was cited (top drawer, file cabinet). I even left it up on my screen on the PC at home (overkill, I know).  I’d already ensured the advance directives had been scanned into the hospital’s system, MyChart. (When a provider’s office called ahead one day, I had them look it up, locate it in the system, and read it off to me, so I knew it was there and available to all).

The Face Sheet listed and held the contact information of folks who needed or wanted updates about my care so they could communicate with one another, like out-of-state family members, my friend, and the one who skillfully provided my transportation and waited with me in pre-op. The same friend became the point person to receive updates from the surgeon and would then fan that out to my family and healthcare agent. Everyone was in the loop, and everyone played an important part. All of that made me much more comfortable and confident.

Copies of that Face Sheet had gone to each of them. A copy was with me in my Hospital Go Bag and handed directly to my friend who was Transporter Extraordinaire (you gain that status when you get up and drive me at 4:45 AM) and who then became the “Information Point Person”. Everything worked wonderfully. I was able to again assume the communication reins soon into my recovery.

There has been certain congruence in my recent course of events. I had congruency rather than dissonance. What I was doing felt right and not off-kilter. That no-stone-unturned feeling really brought me some peace of mind and a bit of honor for me. I was taking the right action, involving the right people. I could have held frank conversations about my wishes and my care, and by doing so, I reaped the benefits of creating a team of professional and personal support. I’d built a Team of people with whom I could freely ask questions and receive straight answers.

I’m not at 100%, and that is OK today. This is the stuff life is made of. In the long run, it will be relegated to “a medical event in 2023”, a blip on the radar screen. The power, though, has been how it has, and is, teaching me to care for myself and to both ask for help and accept help. Those are huge life lessons for me and ones I needed. I’m glad I’m a work in progress.

I also have satisfaction that I’ve handled everything super-responsibly. I know that I did my part to bring about that “best outcome” that we in healthcare so often talk about.

So no, I’m not at 100%, but I feel good about what has occurred and what I’ve done, and that I will be 110% very soon. (Part of me wants to say “Look out” or “Brace Yourselves”!).

Living life and learning. Doing as a Solo Ager should, the “Build Your Team” stuff. Planning and backup planning. Seeing things as a patient advocate and as the patient, and also talking about it. Y’all know that communication is everything to me, and I want everyone to get the healthcare they deserve and to get that ‘best outcome’.

While not at 100%, I do feel great about what has occurred and what is before me. I am grateful for where I am. It could all be so very different, after all.

Heading into next month, I will be talking more about advance directives as we approach NHDD, National Healthcare Decisions Day. It is April 16th annually and a day when we focus on getting our legal ducks in a row relative to our advance directives. That means considering what we want and who will speak for us if we cannot. It means putting our wishes in writing and holding the ever-important conversation with those who we’ve designated as our team.  This is so important to everyone, especially a Solo Ager!

Yes, we’re going to talk about how to “Have a say and how things will go and where will end up”. This stuff is empowering, honorable, and every bit a gift to you and the people that care for you, as you will see.

I’m on the mend, not quite at 100%, but will soon be at 100, heading for 110. Thanks for traveling with me, Everybody.


Nancy Ruffner is a Patient Advocate, Consultant, and Speaker who helps people get the healthcare they deserve. She is a sought-after consultant regarding healthcare navigation, successful aging, Solo Aging, and eldercare. Arm yourself with her consulting and effective guidance. Begin by scheduling a Complimentary Consultation toward engagement today. Nancyruffner.com 919.628.4428