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Posted on April 18, 2017 at 5:41 PM

Challenging Us to See the Whole Person at All Stages of Life

Kathy Greenlee,  VP for Aging and Health Policy

The Center for Practical Bioethics hosted the Joan Berkeley symposium on Thursday, April 6. The title for the day was “Paths to Person-Centered Planning.” In planning the event, my objective was to focus on tools and techniques grounded in a disability policy perspective that could benefit healthcare professionals and bioethicists. The day brought articulate and engaged speakers, raised new questions, introduced different language, and ultimately affirmed the strength of a multi-disciplinary approach to supporting people and their families as they face serious illness and end of life. 

Four distinct concepts emerged:
1) the perspective of the person as patient,
2) similarities and differences between shared decision-making and supported decision-making, 
3) the balance between what is “important to” a person and “important for” a person, and
4) the need to see a patient within the context of their family, however defined.

Person-Centered Communication

The panelists who opened the day demonstrated the importance of listening to people and the first speaker stole the show. 
Cathy Enfield, member of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), is an articulate adult woman with a developmental disability. She uses an iPad for communication assistance. She gave a first-person account of having healthcare providers look past her and talk directly to her caregiver. 
To communicate, Cathy needs support. Yet, public policies ranging from transportation to healthcare create barriers and financial disincentives that require her to be accompanied by someone to assist. Cathy’s comments were so compelling one of the medical educators in the audience intends to make them required reading for his first-year medical students. The problem of being looked past was affirmed in the afternoon when we discussed caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. The stigma surrounding dementia is so severe, patients who can communicate often become invisible as conversations shift to the caregiver only.

Negative Stereotypes

Each of the successive panelists raised important considerations. Mike Oxford, executive director for policy, Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, talked about living with chronic pain for more than 20 years. He worries that the focus on the opioid epidemic is making it more difficult for patients to get access to much needed medicine, understanding medicine is one of a variety of approaches for managing pain. Mike’s comments resonated with the Center’s work on chronic pain and the PAINS Project. 
Jean Hall, professor, Department of Health Policy and Management, University of Missouri-Kansas City and director, Institute for Health & Disability Policy Studies, is a person with multiple chronic conditions who received discouraging and inappropriate comments during her high-risk pregnancy when carrying triplets. As a researcher, she has documented lack of adequate prenatal care for woman with disabilities. 
Tyrone Flowers, a gun-shot survivor and Founder and president of Higher M-Pact, talked about the amplified issues of being an African-American male going through physical rehabilitation at the age of 18. During voc-rehab he was consistently funneled to vo-tech programs. Assumptions about his future reflected the circumstances of his childhood, not the talent he would display by graduating law school.

Shared vs. Supported Decision Making

What if your life decisions were called into question by people close to you? If the quality of your decision-making was challenged? If people started collecting evidence that you may be losing capacity?
These were the opening questions posed to us by Tina Campanella, CEO with Quality Trust for People with Disabilities in Washington, DC. People with disabilities and older people face these realities all the time. Human decision-making is complex and capacity to make decisions fluxuates. As we support other people, we need to think about how to make the most of someone’s abilities. We need to presume capacity and build from there. If we don’t presume capacity, we won’t go looking for it.
The fundamental element of supported decision-making is autonomy and control. Placing a person in the driver’s seat of their life. Dignity is the reason you presume capacity because it is important to recognize every human being has value and worth. Tina’s remarks about shared decision-making versus supported decision-making prompted a lively exchange with the audience. 
Shared decision-making comes from the healthcare field. However, sharing, by definition, means there are two loci of power: the patient and the provider. Supported decision-making presumes the person is in charge of their life. Professionals provide expertise and recommendations, but the ultimate decision-maker is the patient. The issue left unresolved is the impact on the moral agency of the healthcare provider in a supported decision-making scenario. What is the impact on the healthcare provider’s duty of care? Of the many concepts discussed, these differences in approach to decision-making are likely to generate the most additional thought and conversation. 

Patient Centered Care vs. Person-Centered Planning

The concepts of patient-centered care and person-centered planning are compatible but not interchangeable. 
Each of us are patients for only part of our lives. Robert Sattler, partner with Support Development Associates showed us a variety of documents that reflect a person-centered plan. Imagine taking a sheet of paper and some colored markers. Draw a big cartoon balloon and in it describe what you like and who is important to you. Then in another balloon, list things you don’t like. And for the third section, describe medical information that is important for others to know. In this simple manner, it is possible to capture the essence of someone in a way that is much different than an electronic health record. 
The core concept in person-centered thinking is to create a framework for identifying what is important to people while also identifying what is important for a person. For high-risk patients, professionals often focus on what is important for that person, motivated by a concern for health and safety. But a sole focus on health and safety – patient-centered care – overlooks what is unique about a person and what makes them happy. Person-centered planning challenges us to find the right balance; for someone to be both happy/satisfied and healthy/safe. A person will not do what important for them unless there is a connection to what is important to them. 

Family Relationships

All of us are part of a family, however defined, and a community. Our relationships to other people and our environment are ours to steer and something we take for granted. Michelle Reynolds (Sheli), director of the Individual Advocacy and Family Support for the Institute for Human Development at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, discussed the importance of family in relationship to a person with a disability of any age. 
Often a person with a disability needs supports with basic activities, from personal care to social engagement. However, those supports can also surround a person in such a way that they impede relationships with family, friends and community. The supports can end up defining someone’s life. After working with hundreds of people with disabilities and their families, Sheli developed a Charting the LifeCourse tool to help people plot a full and meaningful life.
The tool captures aspects of life most of us never focus on, yet each of these life domains add unique value and opportunity to the experience of life. The six domains are:
1) daily life and employment
2) community living
3) safety and security
4) healthy living
5) social and spirituality
6) citizenship and advocacy
Charting the LifeCourse reflects a core belief that all people and their families have the right to live, love, work, play and pursue their life aspirations in their community. We have a tendency to segment people based on a label. To change policy and practices, we need to think and talk about all people. All people need the six domains of daily life. For persons with disabilities, the strategy for incorporating those domains may be unique. But, then again, that is true for each of us.

The Bioethics Connection

How do these concepts fit into bioethics? Our very own Richard Payne, John B. Francis Chair at the Center for Practical Bioethics and the Esther Colliflower Professor of Medicine and Divinity at Duke Divinity School, Duke University, spoke and recalled the panel of consumers who began the day. How do we really see people? 
As a medical educator, he asks students if they can really see the person in front of them. He uses pedagogical exercises to teach this lesson. 
Don Reynolds, assistant research professor and director of the Office for Responsible Research at the University of Missouri Center for Health Ethics, as well as a Center for Practical Bioethics Fellow, provided continuity to the past and future. He has worked with the UMKC Institute for Human Development and the Center to bring attention to the need for advanced illness care planning for people with developmental disabilities. He has personally seen the continued evolution of patient centered care and believes we are on the right track to make person-centered planning work.
As we engaged in audience discussion at the end of the day, it was clear we had been challenged to see the whole life of a person in relationship to their healthcare at all stages of life. We reconnected with colleagues and met new people. We concluded the day by talking with Lex Frieden, professor of biomedical informatics, professor of rehabilitation at the University of Texas Health Science Center, and one of the pioneers responsible for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In the end, we all experience the challenges and opportunities of life. Adding new voices and concepts to healthcare and bioethics conversations will enrich us all. 

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