Hospice: 10 Things Patients and Families Need to Know

Hospice is a care philosophy that focuses on maximizing the quality of life as opposed to the quantity of life. Hospice may incl...

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hospice: 10 Things Patients and Families Need to Know

Hospice is a care philosophy that focuses on maximizing the quality of life as opposed to the quantity of life. Hospice may include services such as medication/pain management, medical care, spiritual care, and social services. 

As a medical social worker, my job is to handle all aspects of hospice discharge planning. This includes connecting patients to a hospice agency, ordering equipment, providing resources on care facilities (i.e. board and cares, assisted livings, non-medical custodial nursing homes), and arranging transportation for hospital discharge. Additionally, I provide support to patients and family members during an stressful and emotionally draining process.

What's not publicly discussed about the hospice process is the immense pressure put on hospital employees to discharge patients quickly and efficiently. Insurance companies only pay if hospitals can medically justify a patient's stay. Once a patient goes on hospice, there is no reason for that person to be in the hospital and therefore must leave as soon as possible or the insurance company stops paying. This is often a challenge, especially when trying to provide compassionate care to patients and their families.

The purpose of this blog post is to give an honest and blunt take of hospice, what it entails, what's covered, and what happens when one elects hospice care. This information may come off as insensitive, mostly because I am feeling burned out and angry that this is how our medical system treats the dying. In addition, as the messenger who has blindsided countless patients and families with bad news, I strongly feel that it's better to know now than when it's too late.

Hospice: 10 Things Patients and Families Need to Know

#1 Hospice is NOT a place, but a care philosophy.

A common misconception is that hospice is a facility where one goes to pass away. Unfortunately, standing hospice facilities are exceeding rare, with hospice care typical administered in the home, assisted living/board and care, or custodial nursing facility. As mentioned above, hospice is not a location but a care philosophy that focuses on maximizing and individual's quality of life.

#2 Medicare pays for hospice, but does NOT cover room and board at a care facility.

In order to meet Medicare criteria for hospice, an individual must have a medical diagnosis with a prognosis of 6 months or less. Yes, Medicare covers hospice care, which includes visiting medical professionals (i.e. nurses, social workers, chaplains, caregivers), certain durable medical equipment (i.e. hospital bed, oxygen), and medication. However, Medicare does not cover room and board costs at a non-medical custodial nursing home, board and care, or assisted living. The only exceptions are if you are enrolled in your state's Medicaid program or have long-term care insurance.

#3 Hospice does NOT cover a 24 hour caregiver.

Depending on the hospice agency, you might be able to get a caregiver to come out twice a week for an hour each visit. Even individuals enrolled in a state's Medicaid program will not get 24 hours of care. The only possibilities are via family support, long-term care insurance, or private pay through a caregiver agency.

I've lost track of the number of times I've had to tell patients that they have to deplete their live savings to pay for a care facility or caregiver. The other option is to stay in the hospital and go into medical bankruptcy when insurance stops paying for their stay. And I thought I went into this field to help people.

#4 Hospice patients CANNOT stay in the hospital until they pass away.

Once the hospice decision is made, every effort is made to discharge the patient from the hospital as quickly as possible. The only exception is if a patient is actively dying with a life expectancy of 1-2 days. If a patient is expected to "linger" for 1-2 weeks, they are then transferred to a medical skilled nursing home under "comfort care". Otherwise, they are discharged to home, assisted living, board and care, or a non-medical custodial nursing home under hospice care.

#5 Patients and family members have LIMITED time to make home or care facility hospice arrangements.

I typically tell my patients and family members that once the decision to go on hospice is made, they must be discharged home or to a facility in less than 24 hours. While not every social worker does this, I feel that families and patients need to have an idea of how quickly things happen. In some cases - depending on the hospital and aggressiveness of the nurse case managers/management - I'm ordered to discharge patients the same day they enter hospice care.

The logic is as follows: Hospitals are places for individuals wanting aggressive treatment for their medical conditions. By opting for hospice, a patient is deciding to forego curative treatments in place of comfort-focused treatments. Hence, there is no medical reason for a patient to remain in the hospital. If a hospital cannot justify a medical reason for a patient to remain in the hospital, Medicare and other insurance companies do not pay.

As a medical social worker, hospice patients are my top priority due to the urgent need to get them discharged. The moment I get hospice orders, I immediately reach out to family members to confirm their wishes and determine equipment needs. Depending on the hospital's expectations and hospice agency's availability, I can get equipment delivered and a patient discharged home via ambulance by the end of my work shift. The hospice agencies I work with typically see a patient the day after discharge unless there is an urgent medical need that requires a "same day open".

If a family needs to find an assisted living facility or board and care, that may buy them an extra night or two in the hospital. Any longer and case management gets sent in to inform them that unless they leave, they will be liable for all hospital charges going forward.

#6 Most doctors know very little about the hospice discharge process.

Doctors are the experts when it comes to all things medical related. It's why they go to school for so many years and get paid more than us social workers, nurses, and other allied staff.

However, one of the most common questions I receive from doctors after they order hospice is "What do you need me to do now?" At that point, it's the social worker or nurse case manager that takes over, coordinating discharge with a hospice agency, telling doctors what equipment to order, providing support to family members, finding facilities for patients who cannot go home, and arranging ambulance transport. Doctors assist by signing off on orders, talking to patients/family as needed, completing necessary discharge paperwork, and prescribing medication (though there have been instances where I've been asked "What meds do I prescribe?", to which I respond "You're the physician").

While the physicians I've worked with are generally really helpful, there are instances where they complicate hospice discharges by telling patients and family incorrect information. This may include promising patients things not covered by insurance such as certain medical equipment or caregiving services. In worst case scenarios, I've had physicians tell family member that patients could stay in the hospital when they needed to be discharged that day. This had led to heated arguments when I or the case manager where ultimately sent in to say, "Sorry, but the doctor was wrong." In the end, when it comes to hospital discharge matters, the insurance companies call the shots.

#7 You can pick your hospice agency.

Hospitals and other care facilities might try to push for certain hospice agencies. However, Medicare mandates that patients be given a choice on the matter. While most have no preference, there are a few who've had family members on hospice in the past and want the same agency.

While social workers and other hospital staff are technically not allowed to promote one agency over another, we have an idea of which ones are the most timely and responsive, which is key during the time-sensitive discharge process. Don't be afraid to ask us! The worst that happens is we tell you the required, "We're not allowed to recommend one over another" and give you brochures of our favorites. 

#8 You need to get recertified as terminally ill to continue to receive hospice services.

A patient needs to be recertified as terminally ill by a physician in order to continue receiving hospice services. Recertifications can be completed up to 15 days prior to the start of a new benefit period, but no later than two days after the start of a new benefit period. A hospice benefit period consists of two 90-day periods and an unlimited number of 60-day periods.

Sometimes, individuals do so well that they are no considered terminal. We call this "graduating from hospice". Even though a patient "graduates" from hospice, they always have the option of reenrolling should their condition deteriorate in the future. 

#9 You can disenroll from hospice at any time.

Opting for hospice care is not a lifelong commitment. As stated above, some patients actually improve and "graduate" from hospice. 

On the flipside, some patients decide that want to try aggressive treatments again and disenroll from hospice as a result. There is always an option to enroll again at a later date. 

#10 You have the right to refuse hospice care.

Hospice is widely accepted in the medical community as the humane approach when aggressive medical treatments no longer work or are causing suffering. Many of our patients disagree with this philosophy due to religious, moral, or personal beliefs. As hospital employees, we are required to respect patient/family wishes, even though we may not agree with them.

However, this does not mean we will not try to convince you otherwise. In my short career, I've had elderly late stage cancer patients who've declined hospice and opted for all life saving treatment, including CPR. The doctors would then have lengthy conversations with patients and family about prognosis daily, to no avail. I would have numerous futile "quality of life" discussions with the family, only to get sent in for more by my superiors who were frustrated at my attempts to advocate for people who are in a "state of denial" and "torturing the patient". Ultimately, after many weeks to months, these individuals would pass away, usually while receiving chest compressions in an attempt to revive them.

If you are an elderly patient with a terminal illness who wants everything done, as I social worker I will respect that and fight for your wishes. However, prepare yourself for frequent discussions from medical staff who disagree with your decision.

Final Thoughts

As a medical social worker, my job is to advocate for and support patients and family members during this painful process. However, as a hospital employee, I'm required to follow the rules and regulations set forth by management and insurance companies in order to keep my job. This may include our aggressive approach in getting hospice patients discharged as quickly as possible. While I understand the logic of a hospital not being a holding facility for people who don't need it, the social worker in me can't help but advocate for patience and compassion for people already having to grapple with the dying process.

Hopefully this post gives better insight on hospice and the discharge process. While this information is blunt, I feel that it's better that patients and family members know now rather than be blindsided in the hospital. Lately, I've had an abnormally high number of hospice cases and what's increasingly apparent is how little patients and family members know about hospice care and what's covered. 

If you remember two things from this article, it's that 1) hospice does not cover a caregiver/room and board, and 2) once the decision is made to go on hospice, every effort will be made for hospital discharge to happen in 24 hours of less. And yes, many of us working behind the scenes will feel like terrible people for causing extra stress during an already devastating time. Ultimately, like it or not, we hospital workers can only do much as the insurance companies run the show.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Pinterest Group Board for Social Work Bloggers

Recently, I learned of Pinterest Group Boards and how they allow for communities of like-minded people to share pins with one another. Given the lack of places where social workers can gather to share their blog posts, I've decided to go ahead and start a Pinterest Group Board specifically for social work bloggers: Social Work Bloggers

To be added to this group, you'll need a Pinterest account and I'll need to know your pinterest name. You can either post it here, DM it to me on twitter (@CheapMSW), or email me at cheapsocialworker@gmail.com.

There are so many talented people in our profession. My hope is for this group to grow and become a centralized place where social workers and anyone interested in social work can share and learn from each another.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Racial Profiling of Patients By Healthcare Providers

I hate having to write yet another post on discrimination against patient by healthcare providers, but I think it's important.

Recently, I was called to investigate an abuse incident. The only evidence based on chart review and talking to the staff was "the nurse heard the family member yelling at the patient". As a result, this family member was essentially banned from seeing the patient, who was confused at the time.

To avoid violating HIPAA, here is a super abridged version of what happened next:
-The family member returned to the hospital asking for the patient's location and an explanation for the ban. I received a phone call from the nurses station, claiming that the family member was on the verge of aggression.
-I was with the family member in minutes, and the person was completely appropriate with me. The family member acknowledged speaking loudly due to the patient's confused behavior and seemed apologetic. The explanation was sound, and added details not included in the nurse's report. I sent the family member home to await my call.
-I spoke to the administrative team gathered at the nurses station, who reiterated that the family member nearly became aggressive. When asked how the family member was approached, staff members stated that they were non-confrontation, but that there was also a group of them for security reasons.
-Despite no record of abuse in the patient's chart and my personal opposition, I was ordered under the guise of "due diligence" to call the local police station to request abuse history. As expected, "yelling at the patient" was not enough evidence to get information from the police.

By this point, I had noticed that the nursing and administrative staff was predominantly one ethnicity, while the family member was another. I brought this up to my boss, along with my suspicion that the family member was being racially profiled.

Later, I received a phone call from my boss telling me to call the family member to let them come back and to apologize on behalf of the hospital. The family member was gracious enough, but expressed embarrassment at being treated like a criminal.

The longer I'm in the first, the more I notice blatant discrimination against patients by healthcare workers. While I've already posted this in a previous blog post, I think it's worth reiterating the findings of a study by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality:
  • Blacks and AI/ANs received worse care than Whites for about 40% of measures.
  • Asians received worse care than Whites for about 20% of measures.
  • Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic Whites for about 60% of core measures.
  • Poor people received worse care than high-income people for about 80% of core measures.
As healthcare providers, we are mandated to provide non-biased care to all our patients. Being a member of a disenfranchised or minority group (like the staff at my hospital) does not excuse discriminatory behavior. Imagine being provided subpar care because of your race, gender, religion, illness, sexual orientation, etc. The thought makes me ill and makes me terrified to be hospitalized.

In the case of this family member, I was the last line of defense against an organization too eager to use the "abuser" label. As long as I am a social worker, I plan on advocating for my patients to ensure they get the best care possible regardless of circumstance.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Medical Social Worker

Medical Social Work
One of the problems of being a medical social worker in a hospital is that my work is so varied that people get confused as to what I actually do! To give you a better idea of my job functions, here's a rundown of a typical day at work. At some point, I may write different versions based on what unit I'm working on and what model of social work the hospital uses. For a comprehensive overview of the medical social work profession, please go here: About Social Services at a Hospital

A Typical Day in the Life of a (not so) Cheap Medical Social Worker

 6:20am: Alarm clock goes off. I hit the snooze button.

6:30am: I drag myself out of bed, wash up, throw some clothes on, and slap my makeup on my face.

7:00am: I run out the door and proceed to sit in traffic for the next hour.

8:00am: I arrive at work, clock in, and head to my desk to print out the hospital census. After figuring out who all the new patients are, I go through each one to determine if they need to be "triggered" for a discharge planning and/or social services assessment.

Most common discharge planning triggers include:
  • High fall risk
  • Chronic illnesses prone to hospital readmission (i.e. congestive heart failure)
  • Patients discharged and readmitted within the past 30 days
  • Difficulties with activities of daily living (i.e. bathing and toileting)
  • Patients likely to have medical discharge planning needs such as skilled nursing placement, durable medical equipment, and/or home health 
Most common social services triggers include:
  • Financial issues (i.e. uninsured, homeless)
  • Mental health problems (i.e. depression, anxiety, 5150)
  • Substance abuse
  • End of life concerns (i.e. hospice, comfort care, advance healthcare directive education)
  • Lack of family support
  • Abuse (child or elder)
  • Domestic violence
8:30am: After identifying my triggers, I start putting together my to-do list for the day. I usually divide my list into the following categories:
  • Discharge planning assessments
  • Social services assessments
  • Social services follow-up visits (i.e. support needs, community resources/referrals
  • Patients being discharged and needing skilled nursing placement, home health, or durable medical equipment
  • Patients needing a copy of the Important Message from Medicare Letter reissued (must be done within 48 hours of discharge)
8:45am: Time for rounds with the charge nurse and nurse case manager! Here, we go through every patient on the floor with a focus on barriers to discharge. The charge nurse gives updates on the patient's medical condition and whether they are medically stable for discharge. The case manager provides leadership on what needs to be done from a multidisciplinary standpoint to address barriers to discharge. I (the social worker) give input on potential social barriers to discharge and take note of potential discharges to add to my to-do list.

9:00am: I start working on my to-do list by prioritizing cases in the following order:
  1. Any crisis situation that may arise during the day (i.e. code situation, sudden death, etc.)
  2. Patients needing immediate placement (specifically those under involuntary psychiatric hold)
  3. Patients with acute safety concerns (i.e. abuse, domestic violence)
  4. Patients with discharge orders who have immediate needs (i.e. skilled nursing transfer, home health care, hospice, durable medical equipment, transportation assistance, homeless shelter placement, follow-up doctor's appointments for high risk patients)
  5. Reissuing Important Message from Medicare Letters to patients with discharge orders
  6. Social services assessments of new patients
  7. Discharge planning assessments of new patients
  8. Reissuing Important Message from Medicare Letters to patients who may discharge in the next 48 hours
Typically, I spend my mornings working on assessments while waiting for physicians to come in to write discharge orders. As I start getting orders, the assessments get set aside for later. If you are to survive in hospital social work, the ability to multitask and set priorities is key!

1:30pm: Lunch (if I have time)! By this time of day, I should have everything set up for my patients with discharge orders. This includes transportation for patients transferring to other facilities, home health orders faxed to the appropriate agencies, and durable medical equipment issued to patients needing it.

2:00pm: I come back from lunch and start working on the rest of my to-do list.

3:30pm: Around this time of day I start getting physician orders for the next day's discharges. Typically this involves arranging nursing home placement, home health care, or hospice. My role is to inform patients of the discharge plan, see if they have a preference for a facility/agency, and make arrangements.

4:00pm: If I'm having a particularly bad day, I'll get last-minute orders to transfer a patient to another facility or arrange post-hospital care. Otherwise, around this time I start typing up a "handoff" for the next day's social worker, which includes a summary of what I did for each patient and a list of what still needs to be done.

4:30pm: Barring a crisis or super last-minute orders, I can clock out and go home!

5:30pm-8pm: Arrive home, eat dinner, clean up, watch baseball, play video games, blog, etc. To be honest, I don't do much on weekdays because I'm too drained after work.

10:30pm: Bedtime! Usually I end up going to bed much later because I lose track of time. I know, it's something I need to work on!

Hope this gives everyone a better idea of what I do at work. Please feel to ask questions in the comments section.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Discrimination Against Patients by Healthcare Providers

Recently, I was speaking to a nurse (whose identity will remain anonymous for her sake) regarding President Donald Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim majority countries. This nurse is an immigrant from another country and has been working in the United States for roughly 30 years.

This nurse expressed her support for the travel ban against Muslims, saying that it's "for the better". Her support was not based on any fear of terrorists. She stated that having been a nurse for 30 years, she's encountered a number of people who come to America and "mooch" off the system. With regards to the seven banned countries, she stated that she's had a number of "birth tourist" patients whose purpose is to give birth to American citizen babies and take advantage of the system. She described the patients as "demanding", "knowledgeable of the system", and not knowing how to speak English. In her opinion, banning Muslims would prevent these "birth tourists" from entering the United States and stealing our tax dollars and free money given away by hospitals.

Obviously, I questioned the logic of her arguments, specifically the "free money" given away by hospitals (because that would make my job so much easier) and the "birth tourists" being mostly from Muslim countries. Her response is that she's been a nurse for 30 years and I've only been a social worker for 7 years, therefore she knows more about social services than I do. I promptly ended my discussion, as I knew it was not going to get anywhere.

There were a number of things that bothered me about my conversation with this nurse, but I for the sake of this post I will focus on one. What really bugged me is that this nurse works for a hospital in one of the most socioeconomically diverse places in the United States. If this nurse has such views of Muslim immigrants in general being demanding and out to take advantage of the system, then how does this affect how she cares of them?

Reflecting on my limited 7 years experience in the social work field, I have observed numerous instances of both overt and veiled discrimination in the hospital setting. Here are some examples:
  • Nurses complaining about having "another African-American/Mexican/Middle Eastern/Medicaid/non-English speaking/etc." patient. This is not limited to Caucasian nurses. Knowing a second language, I have heard the same complaints from nurses speaking to each other in their native language in the break room.
  • Patients with too many questions or requests being labeled "demanding" during morning rounds. At times, I've been sent in to talk to families because doctors "don't want to deal with them anymore".
  • Complete scorn for families not wanting their loved ones to enter hospice care due to cultural or religious reasons.
  • Healthcare providers attributing their problem patient's behavior to ethnicity or culture.
I realize that when it comes to challenging patients, there is going to be some grey area. Perhaps that "demanding" patient is indeed a narcotics addict hopping emergency rooms for more meds. Maybe that nurse is being treated like a personal servant by her patient. Abuse of hospital staff happens all the time.

However, the patients we see represent a small fraction of the entire population. It's certainly easy allow frustrating patients to reinforce our personal prejudices, but we must remind ourselves that one person should not represent an entire culture. Our patients come to the hospital because they need help, and otherwise would not be there if they didn't have any problems.

My social work education emphasized the need to check our biases at the door so we can provide optimal care to our clients or patients. While I hope that non-social work healthcare workers do the same thing, a study by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality reflects the following:
  • Blacks and AI/ANs received worse care than Whites for about 40% of measures.
  • Asians received worse care than Whites for about 20% of measures.
  • Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic Whites for about 60% of core measures.
  • Poor people received worse care than high-income people for about 80% of core measures.
As healthcare providers, we are in this field to help all people. I will not deny that our jobs are emotionally draining, physically taxing, and often thankless. However, if we healthcare providers cherry pick who we are able to provide quality, compassionate care to, then what does this say about our society as a whole? As the cliché goes, we are a reflection of how we treat our most vulnerable populations.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Plan a Wedding and Stay Sane

wedding self care
In my previous post, I discussed the various cost saving measures my husband and I used during our wedding planning process. This was by far the easiest part of planning our wedding!

Today, reflect on our wedding again and provide tips on how you can survive with your sanity intact! My husband and I made it, so you can too!

Tip #1: While wedding planning, insignificant details suddenly become significant. In the end, they really don't matter.
When we started planning this wedding, I was well aware that it would be lots of work. What I failed to realize was the amount of detail involved. Right from the start I was told that I "needed" things from floor length tablecloths, wooden dance floor, uplighting, Chiavari chairs, knee length or floor length bridesmaids dresses (depending on who I was talking to), matching bridesmaid accessories, Catholic Ceremony, etc. Such advice was often accompanied with warnings if I didn't listen (i.e. "Your pictures will look bad!" "You decorations will look cheap!" "You'll look ugly/fat/old/young/90s/tacky/dated!" "Your guests will be bored/angry/hungry/confused/annoyed/hot/cold/sober/drunk/thirsty/etc!" "People will judge you!" "You'll convert to another religion!" "You'll regret it!")

Thinking back, there were so many hours wasted debating people on and researching insignificant details like tablecloth colors, napkin folds, decorations, makeup colors, uplighting, and seating arrangements. These are certainly hours of my life I certainly would like back, as in the end I'm sure 95% of the people at our wedding didn't notice/care about these things.

Tip #2: When you're told, "It's your wedding, do what you want," there's always going to be with a caveat. Ignore the caveat and trust your abilities.
While I was frequently told, "It's your wedding, do what you want," I often feel like people were really telling me, "Do what you want as long as I personally find it aesthetically pleasing." For instance, I was told that my wedding dress of choice was too simple and looked like a "bridesmaid dress", then asked to try on a gaudy sequin covered gown 10 sizes too large for me and being told it was a perfect fit. Later, I was told my attire looked "dated".

Keeping our wedding true to us was certainly a big challenge, and never in my life have I felt so insecure because everything from my decision making abilities down to my looks seemed to be under the magnifying glass at all times. At one point, I was even told that my demeanor was "too calm". It really felt like the world had their doubts and wanted us to fail.

In the end, my husband and I dealt by taking an "us against the world" approach to our wedding and not allowing unwanted opinions to change what we wanted. If anything, the doubt motivated us even more to throw the most enjoyable event possible for our loved ones. I learned to confident in my decisions and ignore any person, forum, or blog that told me that my tastes were tacky, ugly, and/or dated. While our wedding isn't exactly Pinterest worthy, I'm happy with how everything looked and felt great in my wedding outfit. Yes, I'm some people did have nitpicks (with other probably still waiting to tell me their "feedback") about the wedding, food, and my looks/attire, but so what? In the end, I'm glad my husband and I didn't cave to trends and conventions and can proudly say that we had a wedding that was true to ourselves.

Tip #3: Find support from different sources
Weddings certainly have the ability to teach you about the people in your social circles. While there were a few outlying incidents, I was generally wowed by the positivity and support from many of my family members and friends.

I also found support through online forums like Weddingwire.Com, which allowed me to ask questions and commiserate with fellow brides. What I liked best about the site was that most brides there provided honest and constructive feedback in a manner that was supportive, understanding, and non-judgmental. This extra outlet kept me from overwhelming my own social circles, as their lives are busy enough without me burdening them with my wedding woes.

Tip #4: Treat your wedding party and vendors with respect
Just because someone is your bridesmaid/groomsman does not mean that you own them until after your wedding day. Most likely, there are people you've selected because they're you're closest family/friends, so I find it just wrong to treat them like personal assistants. While our wedding party did offer to help out, my husband and I tried to keep their tasks to a minimum so they could enjoy the day. Ultimately, this wedding is just one day our of the (hopefully) many we will spend together in our lifetimes.

Similarly, while providing paid services, don't forget that vendors are people too. Treat them well from the start and they will return the favor. Also, don't forget gratuity always and positive online reviews for good service! My husband and I were lucky enough to work with wonderful vendors over the course of a year, and one of the saddest parts of this wedding being over is no longer getting to interact with them regularly.

Tip #5: Something will go wrong on your wedding day, but it will be okay!
My coworker relayed these words of wisdom to me on my last day of work before the wedding. Indeed, despite months of painstaking planning, there were still things that went wrong! While there were no major disasters, there were definitely a few near misses and rough patches throughout the day. However, our wedding day didn't fall apart, plenty of things went right, and I haven't heard too many complaints.

Tip #6: Don't expect your wedding day to be the best day of your life
Not only is there so much expectation for weddings to be "perfect", but there's the myth that it's supposed to be the "happiest day of your life". At this point, it's safe to say that the week leading up to the wedding was miserable and exhausting. While our wedding day was great, it was far from the happiest day of our lives as there was so much organized chaos happening around us. In fact, it took several weeks and the arrival of wedding photos for the adrenaline to fully wear down, though these series of blog posts has caused some of those old feelings to resurface.

It's okay if your wedding day isn't the best day ever! If fact, that was my expectation going into this event, as how sad would it be if my life reached its peak on my wedding day? Now that I'm married, my desire is to make even happier memories together with the hope that our best days are yet to come.

Tip #7: Don't forget your relationship...and yourself!
With all the work surrounding weddings, it's sometimes easy to forget the reason for having one! From the beginning, I knew that my husband didn't care as much about "the convention of marriage" as in his mind, we were already committed to each other. I accepted this and hence did most of the planning work. However, as the work increased and the wedding date approached, our lives and free time became consumed with everything wedding related.

Realizing that we were increasingly exhausted and miserable, we made changes like evening walks where no wedding talk was allowed and date nights at our favorite restaurants. Feeling my body start to to break down between the stress of work and wedding planning, I made concerted efforts to sleep early, stay hydrated, and relax when I could. While I'm already familiar with the importance of self-care thanks to my career, I had to be even more mindful of my physical and emotional health during this taxing wedding process. No wedding is worth sacrificing health.

For those who had relaxing wedding experiences, I congratulate you on being extremely lucky! For everyone else, please remember to stay true to yourself, trust your abilities, and that this is only one day out of an entire lifetime! While I'm thankful to have had a wonderful wedding, my husband and I are ecstatic and relieved to have moved on from that part of our lives, and mostly to have some free time again!