Connected Caregiving with Michelle Chaffee

Connected Caregiving with Michelle Chaffee

Michelle Chaffee is an ovarian cancer survivor and a member of the MOCA Board of Directors. She is the founder of alska, a caregiving technology solution she created as an extension of her professional patient advocacy service. As a caregiver, healthcare professional and, most recently, a patient herself, she is passionate about educating and empowering individuals with the tools and resources they need.

MOCA has asked Michelle to weigh in on a variety of topics related to caregiving and patient advocacy over the next several months. Have a question for Michelle? Email us.

When dealing with a chronic or life-threatening disease, the focus is most often on the treatments.  In Western medicine, little thought has been given in the past to the importance of creating an environment that reduces stress and promotes healing.

There is now a great deal of evidence that indicates there are many things that can be done that can have a profoundly positive impact both at home and in the clinical setting.

Create a healing environment at home


You can start by finding the place in your home where you feel most at ease. This may be near a window with a peaceful view, a space with your favorite easy chair or where you are surrounded by books or photographs that you love. Optimize this space by doing things such as placing a plant or a vase of flowers, adding a tabletop fountain or aromatherapy infuser.


Noise is known to increase stress so one of the easiest things you can do is minimize the noise in your home. If you live with others, you can designate a “noise free” zone in a part of your home where others are aware of your desire to keep noise to a minimum.


Support from loving friends and family can have a profoundly positive impact on healing but you need to know when to say a break is necessary. Battling disease can be exhausting in every way and maximizing your energy means you have to pay close attention to where it is being spent. If you are feeling especially tired, frustrated or depleted it’s alright to close shop for as long as you need to reboot. You can find more in-depth methods for maximizing healing such as the impact of color in your environment in Suzy Chiazarri’s book The Healing Home 

Create a healing environment in the Hospital


Many studies have shown that surrounding yourself with elements of nature can be very healing. Most hospitals are aware of this as well and will be fine with you bringing small fountains, plants or flowers into your hospital room. Always ask hospital staff what their policy is, however.


This can be difficult but not impossible in the hospital. Your best bet is to talk with staff and try to designate quiet times during the day or night that are between therapy, medication administration or change of shift. If beeps and buzzes of monitors can be lowered without impeding care ask staff to turn the volume down (yes, most medical devices have a volume on the alarms). Essentially, have the discussion and make them aware of your desire to minimize stressors and maximize healing. Don’t hesitate to let staff know if they are being too loud. You should not have to listen to healthcare workers in your room discussing the results of their children’s soccer game or how many high-end tote bag orders they received at their last home party unless you really want to know this information. The television is there for you, not your health care worker.


It is acceptable to bring in a favorite pillow or blanket from home, photographs that make you or your loved one smile and even a favorite home cooked meal if the doctor says it is alright. Anything that eases stress and increases a sense of peace and comfort should be welcome and encouraged.


There will undoubtedly be moments of discomfort and even pain while you or a loved one are in the hospital. To minimize this, bring in things such as movies that make you laugh or feel at ease or favorite music and comfortable headphones. If you utilize methods such as guided imagery have them available on a cd or media player. The University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing has some great resources to help create a healing environment as well as information on complementary therapies.