Humble Tool, Big Impact: How the Face Sheet Tool Changed the Game

Apr 30, 2024 | Aging Successfully

..Would you rather listen instead? Click here for the 16-minute audio recording.


It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. I believe that, or else there would be no kitchen gadgets. Or Cliff Notes. Or Life Hacks. Or small business entrepreneurship. The field of independent patient advocacy would never have been born.

Last year I found myself “inventing” due to necessity. I was going in for some medical intervention involving surgery and an overnight stay. I was gathering some information to ensure that my VIPs (Very Important Persons) could remain in the loop and informed.  

One VIP, working as my “Point Person,” would wait with me until the surgery began and receive the updated texts from the hospital team as I moved through the treatment process. The Point Person would then relay updates to my VIPs until I could again do so.

I made some jots as to what I thought could be pertinent information to have at the ready. A quick-sheet, and at-a-glance compilation. What information might I need to easily reference while there?

I need the contact information of my VIPs! They might need the surgical information, facility contact information, and the date and time of the blessed event (nothing glamorous or exciting, but it required an overnight stay). Oh, wait. The VIPs should likely be able to know how to contact one another.

I imagined a compilation might be handy for me and a sort of courtesy to others, really. But this thing, and the act of creating it brought about larger gifts and a greater impact than I anticipated.

What started out as some jots became a sheet of sorts and then morphed into much more. Something I could foresee using again and through time. Hooray for me, but what if others could benefit?

Then, I realized that what I had before me was a TOOL. On top of that little marvel, I realized I had created peace of mind for myself and my Very Important Persons. I had even made my Point Person’s job easier. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Allow Me to Describe What Was Going On At The Time

I was preparing for some surgical intervention just after having moved to a new state. I would need a ride to and from the hospital, where the surgery would take place, along with an overnight stay. Luckily, I had made a good friend who was willing to be both my ride and my Point Person for this medical encounter.

Naturally, I wanted to keep my VIPs in the loop about it all. Hospitals and interventions being what they are (important and not without risk) part of my preparation for the event was to revisit my legal documents: Will, Powers of Attorney, and Living Will. This was especially prudent since I had recently moved, and I am a firm believer in keeping things up to date. I had to make sure my legal tools were able to do for me in my new state what they could do in my previous state.

With updated legal documents, I also revisited one of my favorite documents that often accompanies my documents related to healthcare. It is a booklet called the Five Wishes, which allows me to outline my wishes about the care I want to receive should I be unable to communicate such.

Now it was time to snap in the designees, the agents I had designated with Healthcare and Durable Power of Attorney. We scheduled our Zooms, and I sent copies of the updated documents to each, along with the Five Wishes, ahead of our online chat.

In short order, I reiterated my wishes and asked if there were any questions. I told them where the originals of all documents were kept in my home. Lastly, I provided them with a copy of this nifty little sheet I had developed in Word doc format so they would know about my Point Person and could expect an update. We were samepaging (I am making that a verb, y’all, in my work and in my life. Join me in the movement).

The Nifty Little Sheet Does Its Job

All set for the big day. Copies of the sheet were lodged with my VIPs and my point Person, and two copies were in my Go Bag for the overnight stay. Go Time.

My Point Person’s (Rene’s) generous role would involve her picking me up and driving me to the hospital at 4:30 AM (thank you here and all the way out, Rene). She would wait with me until my gurney departed for the Operating Room and would be the recipient of text communications from the hospital as I progressed through the system (Nancy, aka “the patient,” had entered surgery. Surgery is complete. The patient is now in Recovery. The patient will soon be moved to a room).

Point Person Rene could then text my VIPs to update them on my status using the information I had collected and placed on this sheet.

Peace of Mind – Always a Plus

I like to think that the sheet-tool was of some comfort to my Point Person. As the procedure began, she received text notifications throughout. She was able to then relay updates via text to my VIPs, who appreciated the news and experienced some relief. Knowing my good status, Rene then exited the hospital, and when I was moved to my room.  I relieved her of her duties, and her shift as Point Person ended, so I began to perform my own updates. Man, I felt comforted that everyone was in the loop. Everyone later told me of their ease, also.

The little sheet tool continued to serve. I had a copy prominently displayed on my tray table, within reach for my use. My medical team noticed it, and when invited to review it, they could see all the providers on my medical team. That drew recognition, the connect-the-dot kind.

This little guy had served! That sheet-tool had helped me to plan and to feel prepared. It had traveled to my VIPs and did the same for them. It guided my Point Person in her communications. It made us all feel better before, during, and after.

I elevated its status to The Face Sheet Tool.

The Face Sheet Tool Rides Again

Fast forward a few months, and I was asked to speak on the topic of my own solo aging and preparing for medical intervention as a Solo Ager. The theme of the presentation was about how I transitioned from INdependence to INTERdependence. I told stories of how the overly-independent Nancy had a hard time asking for help, much less receiving help. I shared in that presentation that I learned some valuable life lessons during that time. Oddly, the Face Sheet Tool brought it all about.

Recovery and Gratitude Brought Discovery

I spent a couple of post-surgical days of recovery near my Point Person, Rene, who owns an Airbnb that I had stayed in numerous times. Familiar, comfortable, and with help close by, were it needed.

When you are lying around in recuperation, counting your blessings, and feeling supported, you have a chance to reflect upon things. It was during that time that I became aware of a shift.  

I was aware of my asking for help, and then letting someone help me. (Stop that smile, this was big in Nancy’s world and life).

I had time to rest, think, and to become aware of all the help, then and all my life, and how I had fought it so, all my life. I let that sink in, became comfortable with it, and allowed gratitude to swaddle me.

That’s when I realized that it was not just a shift, it was more.

Who Knew That Creating a Little Tool Would Bring About Transformation?

The very act of creating the Face Sheet Tool had brought about a transformation. It had ushered in unforeseen and delightful outcomes. Developing it, and then sharing it, along with the important conversations that followed, helped me to realize that I am now living in INTERdependence. Being  INTERdependent enabled support, had mutual benefit, and allowed for my INdependence as well.

I had needed my VIPs: my Point Person. I had needed my designated Agent with Healthcare Power of Attorney and others to be aware. I needed my loved ones to be notified of my status and outcome. I needed my providers, and I needed my team to be aware of one another.

I felt it. I was now living in it. INTERDEPENDENCE did not weaken me nor did it engulf me. I was still me. I was still able to do as I wish. My INdependence continues, inside INTERdependence.

Returning now to Nancy, now in live presentation, and talking about the experience brought about by the preparation for surgery.

It was not until I had said it, in impromptu fashion during the presentation, that I fully realized that the concept of INTERdependence had traveled from my head to my heart.

As I talked about the Face Sheet Tool in that presentation, I offhandedly offered to send a copy to anyone interested so they might fashion their own or use mine as a template. The response was a happy surprise – people wanted it.

Tool Power (or Power Tool, have it your way)

I received email requests for it. One request I received went like this. Jane wrote

I have a friend, a solo ager, who will have a knee-replacement surgery at the end of this month. I believe your Face Sheet is

exactly what she’ll need, as her closest relatives are not close in distance nor, sadly, in connection to her.

Fortunately, attentive neighbors are stepping in. I think the information on your Face Sheet will help everyone involved coordinate their efforts.”

In short, this Face Sheet Tool struck a nerve with folks. People wanted what it delivered. Was it the tool they wanted, or the peace of mind, I wondered? Could this little guy bring both?

Or was it going through the exercise of completing it and looping in everyone their intent? Could there be other independent (or stubbornly independent, like myself) persons or Solo Agers that would benefit, was that it?

Could this Sheet serve as a vehicle, a conversation starter between patients and their VIPs, and agents designated with Healthcare Power of Attorney?

Could this tool travel among conversations, VIPs (and their VIPs), agents, providers, like a conduit of sorts, a ready-reference?

Could it be a crowbar for the overly-independent person who may not want but needs to let in a little help?

All those are good reasons to create and make a tool available.

Here is how to get your free Face Sheet Tool by downloading it. This offer is presently living on the Home Page of my website or you may get it by clicking the button below.  

May the Face Tool serve you and your VIPs during a time that might otherwise be stressful, lonely, or unwieldy. May it aid in your preparation, communication, and navigating your event, and bring with it some peace of mind.

As always, I am available for consultation if you need help. Simply contact me. Now offering One-Hour Consultations.

To your good health,