Who Cares?

November 1, 2019
Diasome.comDiasome BlogWho Cares?
James H. Gilmore
Jim Gilmore, co-founder of Strategic Horizons LLP, is co-author of The Experience Economy and Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, co-editor of Markets of One, and most recently author of Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills. He is an assistant professor in the Innovation and Design department in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, a Batten Fellow at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, and a Visiting Lecturer in Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California.
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I came across a crisply stated insight in reading Anne Boyer’s recently released book, The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, medicine, art, time dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer and care. About fifty pages into her agonizingly transparent memoir chronicling her chemotherapeutic experience of triple-negative breast cancer, Boyer writes, “The word ‘care’ seldom calls to mind a keyboard.” This simple yet insightful observation summarizes her frustration—indeed outright distain—for the ever-present technological intrusion introduced to her life before, during, and after each chemo “treatment.” The keyboard merely serves as an icon for the technological treatment of the cancer displacing true care for the person. And it suggests a need for medical care that does more than devolve into mere data-gathering and treatment administration.

Boyer’s provocative observation, as well as her description of her entire time spent in the Cancer “Pavilion” (Boyer points out that the word pavilion derives its meaning from the idea of a battlefield; clinic derives from that of a bed), reminded me of two things. First, the mention of the keyboard reminded me of ordering over the counter at any fast food establishment: the front-line employee looks down at the register screen as customer after customer looks up at the electronic menu board overhead—eye contact between humans never occurring. This dynamic even occurs at finer dining restaurants whenever diners look down at menus held in their laps while their table-side food-server awkwardly awaits selections. And this same dynamic happens in hospitals and doctor’s offices every time a physician or nurse asks for and enters data into a laptop or tablet. Thanks to Boyer, the keyboard serves as a poignant icon for this dehumanizing technological intrusion increasingly creeping into our lives.

Secondly, Boyer’s focus on “care” reminded me of Milton Mayeroff’s concise unpacking of what constitutes true care in his book, On Caring. (I always refer this book to my undergraduate pre-med and nursing students, and also to my MSM-Healthcare graduate students; often, I give copies to those who perk up at the mere mention of the book in class.) For Meyeroff, “to care for another person…is to help him grow and actualize himself.” It’s “not an isolated feeling or momentary relationship, nor is it simply a matter of wanting to care. Caring…is a process, a way of relating to someone…through mutual trust and a deepening and qualitative transformation of the relationship.” Meyeroff does not spend much of the book describing the characteristics of caring as much as he outlines the ingredients of caring. (Characteristics? Ingredients? The difference? Consider what a birthday looks like outwardly—the frosting, decorations, and candles—versus what goes into the cake: flour, sugar, eggs, cocoa, milk, and if home-baked, familial love). The ingredients Meyeroff includes in his recipe for caring: Knowing, Alternating Rhythms, Patience, Honesty, Trust, Humility, Hope, and Courage. He crisply illuminates the properties of each ingredient in masterful ways. On courage, for example: “Courage is not blind; it is informed by insight from past experiences, and it is open and sensitive to the present. Trust in the other to grow and in my own ability to care gives me courage to go into the unknown.”

Let me conclude this post with a personal observation and application for all who self-care for themselves (or care for their family members) though the use and management of insulin. As I survey the contemporary diabetes landscape, I witness an overwhelming number of treatment enhancements emerging, mostly embracing a technological approach involving wearable monitors, sensors, and dosing systems. (And it strikes me as no different that the folly of thinking we can outsource complete trust to “self-driving cars,” or Alexa, or secret algorithms housed in Silicon Valley computer-servers.) Brochures and websites abound, each trying to position their diabetes devices as a “trusted platform.” But note: “The word ‘care’ seldom calls to mind a keyboard.” Perhaps this whole technological approach is insufficient. Rather than adding more and more layers of technology to treatment—each making the wearer ever more constantly aware of their condition—perhaps a better physiological approach, and true health care objective, might be to find a way to eliminate the need for so many of these gadgets and give non-wearers greater confidence in their self-driving selves and a peace of mind that needs not greater and greater monitoring and measurement.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of Diasome.

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