A Tale of Two Families’ Journeys

Last week, I was attending the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative
Medicine’s Annual Assembly in Orlando, Fla. This brings together people from all
the medical disciplines who care for the seriously ill: physicians, nurses, advanced
practice nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, social workers, and chaplains.
Palliative Care deals with serious illness and the end of life. It supports patients
and families in having the best experience when this time inevitably comes.
Because the conference is being held in Orlando, it was no surprise that there
were many, many families on my flight, and their excitement was contagious.
I can say with confidence that most of them were not heading to AAHPM, but to
Disney World.

A Disney vacation is something that is planned with great detail: the parks to visit,
what rides to do, dining with favorite characters, where to stay – each visit
tailored to what suits each family best. Because of this planning a special time is
created that is remembered and cherished by everyone.
It’s interesting how most people recognize that going to Disney without a plan is a
big mistake. No plan would make their vacation at Disney dismal.
Of course, not every family gets to go on a Disney vacation, but there are other
trips and adventures that require similar care and planning to have the best

A big part of the conference focuses on how to get people to plan for what they’d
want if they or their loved ones became seriously ill. Because so often when a
loved one becomes seriously ill, we are shocked and taken by surprise without
any plan about what to do. A difficult experience is made even more challenging
as families try to navigate this unfamiliar world of serious illness without any idea
of what their loved one would want.

But fortunately, there are many people dedicated to making this unwanted
experience better for families, and for this week, many of them are gathered here
in Orlando.

So what I’m thinking about is what we can learn from the creative, talented
Imagineers at Disney? How can we make planning for the journey of serious
illness something that is as normal a part of adult behavior, as the attention,
research and discussion that a journey to Disney entails.
That would be magical indeed.


Matthew Rachleff

Matthew is co-founder and CEO of Naveon, a platform supporting families and care teams during serious illness.