My name is Drew Drozynski, and I am Joan Foust’s son and a contributing author and editor of Creative Caregiving Solutions. For most of my career, I have been writing and editing proposals for US Government grants and contracts, which involves a lot of talking to world-class experts and distilling their knowledge down into language that anyone can follow. When the opportunity arose to use my skillset to help my mom document her unique approach and share it with the world, I jumped at the opportunity. This book is the result of many hours of conversations, brainstorming, writing, editing, and then editing some more.
But it is also the result of a fascination that I have had with my mom’s stories throughout her entire career. My first real job was as an administrative assistant to HomeLife Services, the company that my mom and sister founded and managed from a bedroom converted into a home office. I helped to design our first brochures, build our first website, input invoices into and print checks out of our accounting software, build templates, and anything else they could think of to throw my way. It was a rewarding job, and I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to help—and of course to earn some extra spending money.
What I didn’t expect in those early days was how much I was going to learn. Not just about how to run a business and the spirit of entrepreneurship, but something much deeper. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had a wondrous view from my seat at the table. Sure, I saw the ins and outs of daily business transactions, the spreadsheets, the decision-making processes.
The real lessons I cherish, however, came from the stories. The oh-so-many stories.
A near-daily deluge of stories about human interaction—the subtle and sage handling of unbelievably complex situations, easing of tensions, reduction of fear and doubt, and making the impossible seem straightforward. And, through it all, the calm, clear, patient-centered communication techniques that made it look so… easy? How was this even possible?
I started to notice a trend in my mom’s work that began with her fearless can-do attitude. No problem was too complicated—she may have even enjoyed the complicated problems more—no situation too untenable, no patient unredeemable, no family unguidable. I watched my mom walk into situations with her head held high even though literally every person she talked to said, “it’s hopeless,” because… well she must have had some secret way of bending people’s will to hers that she must have carried with her in her back pocket.
I was in awe of her abilities, and I watched closely as time after time after time she was able to calm things down, get a handle on how to proceed, convince patients and families alike that the best path forward in her mind was in fact their idea in the first place, and solve problems that everyone else had completely given up on solving.
The closer I looked for the trick—that subtle manipulation she must be doing to get these people to do her bidding—the farther away I got from figuring it out. For years as I listened to her tales, I kept an eye out for this trick, this tactic, this way of bringing people around, this way of convincing people that her solution was the right one.
Instead, what I discovered was so simple, it seems like it should be obvious.
There is no trick. There is no way of manipulating people into doing what you want. There is no way to compel people to comply with your solution.
Instead, I discovered something so much better. Her method was simple—learn to understand their worldview, get them to trust you by first trusting them, and then have them help you come up with solutions that make sense to everybody.
That’s it. The hidden secret I had searched for was not some trick, it was empathy. Just have empathy for your fellow man. Care about them and what they think and how they feel. Put yourself in their shoes. It sounds so simple yet is so elusive to so many.
Once I figured out how she was doing what she was doing, the only issue that remained was that her problem-solving method was too simple for other people to believe in. As she explained her approach, people were incredulous and didn’t believe it could possibly work. In her care management practice, she regularly employed empathy to solve the unsolvable.
Too few caregivers understood her core principles, let alone how to apply them in real-world scenarios!
In our too-rushed world, her methods seem slow. In our push for efficiency, we forgot about effectiveness. In our drive to reduce costs, we forgot that some costs are not actually costs, but investments. While she was able to train her employees and colleagues in her methods, her audience was too limited, and her reach was too narrow. After I finished college and became a grant writer, we decided that we should try to capture these ideas in a book to enable her to reach a wider audience.
As we worked to document her methods, we tried, as often as possible, to provide practical examples and use simple conversational language so that the ideas are easy to digest—even for an overworked frustrated family member at their wits’ end. We included concrete actions you can take to try things out to see whether they make a difference. We included summaries at the end of each chapter, so you don’t have to re-read the whole thing to remember key points.
I sincerely hope that we have succeeded in making her approach easy to understand and apply, but we enthusiastically welcome your feedback to incorporate into future editions.
While our focus here is on caregiving—obviously a specialty of my mom’s—I encourage you to use the ideas and techniques contained in this book to improve all your relationships. I have spent my entire life learning and trying to apply the lessons described in this book and have seen remarkable results in my interactions with everyone I have encountered throughout the world. The ability to start and maintain relationships using love and empathy is, in my mind, the greatest gift my mom has ever given me. I sincerely hope it gives as much to you as it has to me.
I wish you the best of luck and greatest of success as you start the journey toward calm peaceful communication and problem solving. I promise you that the rewards are great if you can apply these principles to your own life and how you care for and treat others.
All the best,