Monthly Archives:

Inspired by a man with a vision

Two years ago, an inspiring man by the name of Wayne Mills crossed my path.  In his Personal Profile on his work website, Wayne describes his focus in the following manner:   "Health is a personal matter.  Only by focusing on the person will we transform the unsustainable health system into a sustainable ecosystem.  Changing the provider centred service to Person Centred Health is my passion, vision and commitment".

Wayne's passion in promoting person centred health makes him a strong advocate for the value of personalization in health care system settings and systems.  When our paths first crossed a few years ago, Wayne invited me to participate in webinars focusing not on patient centred health care but on person centred health care.  Wayne is clear about the difference.

Sept 12At that time, HSA's main work in the health sector focused on the cancer journey and the Think About Your Life website and resources.  It was difficult for us to even imagine the introduction of person centred thinking and tools in places such as large medical hospitals but Wayne planted the seed and we have started sharing our ideas with hospitals.   Two years ago, I never imagined that last week I would be sitting at a nurse's station introducing the idea of One Page Profiles.  Our 'rounds' that day included the Social Work department and six medial units.  One unit wants to implement this as part of their new HELP program that is starting this fall for people who will be staying at the hospital longer term.

Teams image

I called Wayne today to thank him for his leadership and for inspiring us to see how we can make a contribution to health care.  Wayne said that he plans on sharing our paper Using Person-Centred Practices within Organizations and Teams with hospitals and organizations that also believe in the importance of this (click on the document picture to access this paper).

I look forward to connecting with more Canadian health care providers that share our vision for person centred health services.

Coaching Youth for Success and One Page Profiles

Aug 12-1Last Friday, Barb Swartz-Biscaro (newest HSA Canada associate) and Erin from Community Living Parry Sound and I, spent the day with 14 young people between the ages of 13 and 19.  Barb facilitated a module from the Coaching Youth for Success program that originated in Australia and Erin facilitated activities to help develop One Page Profiles in the afternoon.

Aug 12-2It was my first experience with the Coaching Youth for Success module and I was impressed with how it helps youths think about who they are, what is important to them now and in their future and the supports they need and want to help them accomplish this.  I was also very impressed that so many young people Aug 12-3agreed to take time out of their busy summer school break to spend the day with us and help us learn.  The picture above shows Corey, Dominique and Joey looking at red information cards showing examples of different career paths.  Other activities included considering personality types as well as the question 'what drives you?' (picture of Humour example on the right).Young people  said that these exercises were helpful in reflecting on what is important to them.

Aug 12-4Mikayla and Cassandra said that they will be sharing their One Page Profiles with their high school teachers when school starts next week.  Mikayla was quite clear that doing boring exercise sheets (i.e. grammar sheets) that are not challenging frustrates her and make it difficult for her to focus or want to participate in class.  She said that the profile will help her talk to her new teachers about her need to be challenged as a way to stay motivated.  Cassandra on the other hand has a way with words and poetry.  She gave me a glimpse of her profile and each section was written as a poem. This was very interesting and very personalized!  Cassandra says that the style of her writing also says a lot about what she likes and how she communicates best.  I look forward to seeing Mikayla and Cassandra's finished profiles and possibly sharing these with you.

Thank you to all the young people who participated and we wish you success in your studies, activities and relationships!

Is it something in the water?

In my small town, it seems that whenever we start hearing of more pregnancies than seems usual, someone always blames it on the water.  Well, could there be something in the water internationally?  There is definite excitement about pregnancies in the International HSA team.  And No! I am not pregnant!  Phew!

Some of you have been following the Personalization in Pregnancy work either on the HSA Facebook or by reading Rowan's blog (Click here to see Rowan's blog).  Well, I got the bug to see it in action and find out first hand what this looks like.  By first hand I mean sitting down with a mom to be … not getting pregnant and finding out directly.  Lol.

July 12-3Over the last few weeks, I spent a bit of time with Kristen and introduced some of the person centred maternity templates to her.   Kristen was willing to give it a try even though she is in her very last weeks/days of pregnancy.  We first started with a One Page Profile and a few other tools (hopes and fears, past experience, delivery coach job description).

July 12 -4When we met again, Kristen said that it was helpful to think and talk about some of her experiences, wishes and worries.  Even though she had been thinking about some worries and what is working and not working right now, she felt kind of stuck.  Kirsten said that sitting down and putting pen to paper helped her sort out what mattered most and how others can best support her.  It also helped open the door to conversation with her partner.  Small things have already started to change in how they support each other on a day-to-day basis.  They are both benefitting from this. Click on Kristen's One Page Profile image to see the full size pdf version.

July 12- 5Kristen also prepared her birth plan and will be bringing it with her to the hospital to share with the nurses when she is in labour.  She has also talked with her husband about the last experience when their son was born and reviewed the birth coach description with him.  There were no surprises but having it in writing helped them review how he could best support her.

I really enjoyed meeting with Kristen and appreciate her willingness to give it a try this late in her pregnancy.  Thanks Kristen!   I was also really pleased to hear that she found it helpful.  I wish that I had this type of opportunity years ago for each of my pregnancies!

Living Well and End of Life Planning

June 12 -1On Wednesday, I presented the Living Well and Planning for the End of Your Life workbook, at a fair for retirees and seniors in my home town. People were moved and inspired by the straight forward questions/tools in the workbook and the opportunity they present to think about personal preferences.  I was moved when one of the participants asked if she could give me a hug as she was leaving the session. These resources really do make a difference!

For me, one of the key questions in the book is "How do I want to be remembered?"  As some of you know, my father passed away in September 2010. Of course through the grieving process, I have gone back and forth between the memories of his last few weeks struggling with pain in the hospital and trying to erase these from memory in an effort to focus on celebrating his life.  My Dad was an avid music lover, player of June 12 -1multiple instruments and singer. This spring, I decided to celebrate his legacy by taking singing lessons as this is definitely not a talent he left me but instead something I wish I could do better. These singing lessons feel like I am spending time with Dad every Monday night. The two songs I have chosen to learn are Angels by Robbie Williams and Cache Cache by Maxime Landry.

For a little while now, Helen Sanderson (HSA UK), Amanda George (HSA USA), Deb Watson (HSA Australia) and I have been talking about various ways in which lives are or can be celebrated. I would love to hear readers' own personal examples of how they celebrate the lives of those who have left us. Please share your examples in the comments section or if you are not comfortable doing this, please send me an email @

The other key question attached to "How do I want to be remembered?" is "What do you or others need to do to ensure that you are remembered in the way that you choose?" As I was exploring the internet on this topic, I came across an article that talked about dealing with our 'digital assets'. The topic had never occurred to me!  This article describes 7 different programs/services that help organize our information and deal with such things as accounts with facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, chat groups, etc. Some of the programs also provide services that let you prepare a 'Great Goodbye'.  I am thinking that the question of dealing with digital assets probably needs to be asked of someone who is thinking and planning for the end of their life.  Here is a link to the article on the Mashable Social Media website:

“Everything in my life is changing mom!”

Lately I have been thinking about the human need for continuity.  I am sure that most of you have struggled with change at some point in your life.  The experts say that it doesn't matter if the change is positive or negative, it is still hard to can cause stress and leave us with a feeling that our world is out of sink or unbalanced.

MAY 12 -1Last week, my husband and I decided to cut down a few trees on our property.  We have many trees and the yard started to feel like a jungle.  When my daughter Michelle came home from school, she was devastated and cried about one tree in particular.  She said that it was her tree and that she climbed it sometimes (we have never seen her do this or heard her talk about this) and that she had carved her initials on it.  Michelle then went on to say that everything in her life was changing and talked about the bathroom renovations, relationships at school, and changing bedrooms (even though she asked to change rooms).  We had shaken her world and she was upset.  She asked that we talk to her about any other changes we were planning so that she could have a say in the changes.

This really got me thinking about change, its affect on our sense of feeling safe and secure, and how change can lead to grieving and all the physical and emotional impacts that come with this.   Although we pay attention to grieving after the loss of someone we love, we don't often consider the need to grieve other changes.

While teaching different courses, I often come across the topic of service/program changes and their impact on people who receive extensive services, especially if people rely on services 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.  If Michelle could be 'shaken' by a tree being cut down on the front lawn, what kind of impact do staff turn-over, service changes, home remodelling, down-sizing of living options, changes in house/roommates, etc. have on people?   Some people don't even have their world 'shaken' on an ongoing basis.

May 12-2Do service providers and person centred planning facilitators know what is important to people in terms of continuity and security?  Do they help them think about transition and the possibility of grieving when things change?  Do they help them think about how they want and need to be supported and do they build those supports with them?

I know that although I have paid attention to this before, I have not done this consistently and maybe not as deeply as possible when I facilitated planning meetings with people.  Michelle's experience helped me realize the importance of this.  I think that for people who have more difficulty understanding why things change and might not be able to tell us directly what matters most to them, it is even more crucial that we pay close attention to this and figure it out with the person.

Person Centred Thinking tools for ourselves and with our partners

Recently during a Person Centred Review course, one young mom volunteered to be the focus person during the Person Practice Review and the experience was amazingly powerful for everyone. This young mom talked about her struggles with balancing her time in terms of taking care of her baby, her home and working two jobs. She and her co-workers identified this as a priority to sort out during the Review. Together we explored options using the blueskying technique and came up with a number of ideas to start with. By the end of the Review, this young mom's plan was to go home and develop a One Page Profile for herself and sharing this with her husband and family.  She also planned on sorting out daycare support so that she could build in an hour of 'me time' at the end of her work day. This mom was known to some of the participants as being so generous to others that she would almost never say 'no' to requests for help. One of the blueskying ideas was to learn how to stop and assess if she had the time or energy to say 'yes' to requests and be more selective with sharing her time. She told the group that she had never really thought of saying 'no' as being an option. It was a real 'Aha! Moment' for her.

During the closing round of the Person Centred Review course, many participants voiced their plans of going back and asking their partners and children to develop One Page Profiles with them. A number of these participants thought that other tools such as Communication Charts would be helpful to do as couples.  Some participants had read the Celebrating Families book and were energized to go home and explore the book again with a desire to strengthen their relationships with their partners and family members. Others were excited to hear about this resource.

I have not often heard of couples using Person Centred Thinking tools as a way to sort out how to honour what matters most to them as individuals and as a couple, and how to support each other through the ups and downs of their relationship. I would love to hear about stories or see examples from our readers. Please send me your thoughts and examples at

March has been a busy and educational month in Canada!

march 12-1I would like to start by welcoming Hilary Tugwood to our team.  Hilary has extensive experience in promoting and helping organizations implement person centred supports. Hilary is passionate about making a difference in people's lives.  Her insight, vision and wealth of knowledge will be evident to organizations, as she supports them on their journey to becoming more person centred in all their efforts.

During a mentorship session with Person Centred Thinking trainer candidates this week, Hilary led a discussion on the topics of respect and rights.  Although respect and the exercise of choice and control (rights) are inherent in all that we teach and promote, we feel that it is further important to start talking about rights and respect more directly in training.  I am excited to work with Hilary to look at finding ways to incorporate new curriculum on these core values.

March 12-1This month, I also had the opportunity to work with two groups of nurses at my local general hospital.  Both groups worked on developing One Page Profiles with the aim of team building.   Both groups were impressed at the helpfulness of One Page Profiles in identifying how to support each other, especially when a new nurse joins the team.  Both teams used the 4+1 reflection and action planning tool to problem solve two separate concerns. March 12-2 I was also really excited to learn that some families had developed One Page Profiles for their loved-ones who have been long term patients at the hospital.  The nurses said that these were very helpful in providing more individualized care.  I look forward to meeting with the nursing managers next month to look at how they can further implement and use the person centred thinking tools that they learned during these sessions.

If you are interested in helping us explore and develop any of these exciting topics (rights, respect and person centred thinking in health), please connect with me at

Are One Page Profiles contagious?

Well, I am excited to share an example of how One Page Profiles were contagious. The funny thing is that this spread of One Page Profile use happened in a Hospital Intensive Care Unit. Kris Akilie, from the Niagara region, learned about One Page Profiles as part of training that took place in her area last year. Kris' mother, age 84, needed intensive medical supports this year and was hospitalized for four months. During this time, she lost her ability to talk.

Kris asked her family to help her develop a One Page Profile for their mom. As well as support information, the profile included details about things that matter to her and what brings her comfort. On the very first day, a nurse noticed that Laurie enjoyed watching The Big Bang Theory on television (it was also the nurse's favourite show). The nurse told her she would come back and put it on for her (and she did). These types of small supports made a big difference in Laurie's healing and stay at the hospital.

After four months, Laurie was well enough to leave the hospital. What amazed Kris the most is that creating a One Page Profile for her mum, 'gave the bug' to 10 other families, to do the same with their loved ones. These families did not attend a course or read a book, they saw Laurie's profile and how it helped the nursing staff provide more personalized care, and were inspired to do the same.

I hope that we can all be contagious like Kris, simply by using person centred approaches in our everyday life. We can all make a difference, simply by letting people see what we are doing and the difference it can make in our lives.

I would love to hear your stories. Please share them by leaving a comment here or by adding a post on our facebook page.

Starting the year inspired

I hope that 2012 started off well and will be inspiring for everyone!

What seems to inspire me the most is when I hear stories of how Person Centred Thinking and Planning is being used in new ways, for new purposes and is making a positive difference in people's lives. It is especially exciting to see people's creativity and how these new ideas can be useful in my own life and my family's life.

Jan12 - pic 1Right before the holidays, Barb Swartz from Ontario told me about her new partnership with her local employment service. Based on her visioning work with a grade 8 class last June (click here to see the session outline),this year they will be doing Opportunities and Visioning sessions with all grade 8 classes in their area.  This work will take place from January to June of this year, which means that all students entering Parry Sound High School in September 2012 will do so with a One Page Profile and visioning board...How exciting!

jan 12- pic 2Jordan developed a One Page Profile for High School using her vision board and information that she captured during the exercises (click here to see the pdf version).

Starting high school can be intimidating for any student.  Having an opportunity to think about hopes and fears and plan on how to cope with difficult situations can help them stay on their desired path to success. I am inspired by Barb's session and upcoming project with the employment service. We will work together to capture the experience and look at pulling it together so that others will be able to do this in their own area. I hope you are all as inspired as I am!

Our family traditions are my just wouldn’t be Christmas without them!

Hi everyone!

pic 1It's been a while since I've blogged and I'm happy to join you again to close off 2011 and bring in the New Year. I'd like to start by thanking Katherine and Jill for sharing their wonderful insights and personal stories with everyone these last few months. I hope that you've enjoyed reading their blogs as much as I have.

This time of year, much of our energy is spent on celebrating and indulging in festivities that are specific to each of our own personal cultures. For years now, I have encouraged support providers to ask people what is important to them in terms of celebrating the Holiday Season (or not), and to help them find a way to do this with their families, friends, neighbours and also take advantage of community celebrations.

When people rely mostly on paid support for day to day care, to connect with friends and family and to access their community, they also depend on these same service providers to help them celebrate or observe cultural Holiday practices. Providing this type of support is not always easy for the service provider and can take a lot of figuring out.

Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by discussions of how Holidays should be celebrated. Of course my way is the only right way (not really), but it is the only right way for me. I do care that what matters most to me in terms of celebrating is part of my celebration every year.

pic 3pic 2For me, being a French Canadian who was also raised Catholic, this particular Holiday Season means that we celebrate by going to church December 24th for Christmas Eve mass. When I was young, midnight mass was actually at midnight (now we have the option of going to 'midnight' mass as early as 5pm - not the same but quite nice for my not so young body). In my young days, after church we gathered for a réveillon de noël. A réveillon is a party that lasts all night and involves eating loads of hot food including the traditional tourtière (meat pie), and singing des chansons à répondre (a unique type of sing-a-long). This is also when we opened our Christmas gifts.pic 4

Christmas still involves most of these French Canadian family traditions but sometimes they look a little different, which is okay with me because I'm part of making the decisions about how we modify our activities. Things that are most important to me, like baking, will never change because to me it wouldn't be Christmas without making batches of our favourite family recipes.

pic 5As you can probably imagine, supporting me during this Holiday Season would probably take lots of planning and creativity if I had to rely on paid supports to make it all happen. I do have to say that I don't think it would be much of a Christmas celebration without all my family traditions. Luckily, I have family members who also enjoy some of the same traditions and we take turns making bits and pieces of it happen. Together, we are bigger than the sum of our parts. It is much easier and a lot more fun, to come together to make it happen.

The best Christmas stories I've heard, are those where support providers have been able to learn what matters most to people and their loved ones, in terms of celebrating and observing cultural and family traditions and have worked together with them to make it happen. Not only did the person and their family appreciate the personalized support, but support workers were proud of the difference they made.

Thanks to all of you who take this extra care in providing person centred supports! It's not always easy but it sure is fun to see the difference it makes in someone's life.pic 6

I look forward to sharing my January blog where I share the inspiring work that Barb Swartz-Biscaro has done with a grade 8 class to help them prepare for secondary school.

Happy New Year everyone!