6 posts tagged “caregivers”

Getting “Patients Included” right Part II: Planning a patient-centric event

Posted November 18th, 2015 by

You may remember Part I of this blog that focused on the experiences of two PatientsLikeMe members who attended the Kidney Health Initiative’s (KHI) workshop, “Understanding patients’ preferences: Stimulating medical device development in kidney disease,” back in August. KHI is a partnership between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN). We recently spoke with patient Celeste Lee and Frank Hurst, MD, Medical Officer, Renal Devices Branch with the FDA, about the planning and consideration it took to make this event “Patients Included.”

While this was the first patient-centric event KHI has held, they’ve worked to include the patient voice in all aspects of the initiative. Kidney patients and kidney patient organizations are represented on the KHI Board of Directors, and this past year the KHI Board of Directors formed a KHI Patient and Family Partnership Council (PFPC) made up of only patients and their caregivers. The PFPC helps provide strategic guidance on how to engage and include patients, their families and care partners in KHI activities.

Celeste has had kidney failure from an autoimmune disease since she was 17. She’s been an advocate for decades and is now focused on patient-centered care. Celeste is also a board member on the inaugural PFPC and helps review potential projects from a patient and family member viewpoint.

“The way KHI works is that it brings everyone to the table – researchers, industry professionals, patients – and we ask what is it that we can do to improve research and clinical trials and ultimately, patient lives. We do this through specific projects like this workshop,” she says.

Involving patients from the get-go

As part of this particular workshop, KHI wanted to hear patients’ ideas and preferences on new devices to manage kidney disease. Before anything, though, they had to create an event that would provide the greatest value to patients that attended in person.

When we asked Frank and Celeste what goes into planning an event like this  they shared how they think it can be centered around the patient:

“Involving patients early helped us to realize the need to broaden efforts to educate patients on the topics of interest prior to having the workshop. This proved to be a critical step in the planning process,” says Frank.

“We realized it would save time to educate prospective attendees about the new devices via webinars before the workshop,” explains Celeste. “We ended up taking a three-step approach that started with a quick engagement video talking about what we wanted to do. We distributed this throughout the whole kidney community. At the end of the video, there was an invitation to sign up for the webinars. After the webinar we said – now we are going to have a day and a half workshop and we will provide travel grants. Over 50 travel grants were given, funded by KHI so patients could come from all over the country.”

Frank notes, “Although patients are medical device consumers, they rarely have an opportunity to influence products that come to market. The success of a new medical device is based on many factors, including the usability by patients. KHI provided a forum, which allowed stakeholders to hear about ideas and potential solutions directly from patients.”

Looking at it from all angles

While the main consideration was making sure KHI had set clear expectations to patients who attended from the onset, there were additional logistics to consider for the workshop to be as patient-centric as possible. The workshop agenda was arranged around patient treatment schedules and incorporated dietary considerations when planning the menu. Because some attendees are on dialysis or live with transplants, they needed volunteers on hand. KHI planners also made sure to ask for patient feedback throughout the entire event and had scribes in position to record it. This feedback was ready to be shared at the workshop’s closing and will be sent out in an executive summary as well.

“Patients especially enjoyed the small group sessions,” Frank says. “These were multi-stakeholder breakout discussions which tackled important questions such as unmet needs, device areas that need improvement, making clinical trials more patient-friendly, and assessing ways for patients, industry, and regulators to communicate and share feedback.  These sessions included many lively discussions where patients felt empowered to share ideas and come together to propose solutions.”

Patient advice for a patient-centric event

Celeste has simple advice for other organizations that want to have this level of patient inclusion in their events. “I think you start off with a really good planning team that includes patients so that they’re there to help figure out the challenges of bringing that population together. Most importantly – you need to prepare people to be a part of it. You’re not going to get anything of value if people come in cold. It’s about the patient being able to draw on their experiences to help move research forward so if they understand what’s expected of them going in, then the outcomes will be more valuable.”

Frank adds, “It is also important to consider the spectrum of the disease, and ideally include patient representatives from across the spectrum as they could have very different needs.”

“Then,” Celeste says, “the next step is getting them to share the developments within the greater community. Once patients are educated and engaged, they become empowered.”

For a look at the KHI’s 3-step plan, check out this presentation they shared with us! And of course, don’t forget to visit the site and connect with the more than 1,000 other PatientsLikeMe members living with chronic kidney disease.

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Getting “Patients Included” right Part I: Two members attend a Kidney Health Initiative workshop

Posted November 4th, 2015 by

Back in August, the Kidney Health Initiative (KHI), a partnership between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), held a workshop called “Understanding patients’ preferences: Stimulating medical device development in kidney disease.” But this was more than a workshop – it was an event centered around the idea of “Patients Included” – a movement started back in May to involve more patients on the planning committees, stages, and in the audiences of medical conferences.

Sally Okun, our Vice President of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety spoke at the event and notes how patient-focused the entire workshop was in that “nearly 100 people among the approximately 150 who gathered for the event were patients living with and managing kidney disease every day, many joined by their caregivers.”

“The patients were very open in the discussions and direct in their questions. Many talked about their experiences with hemodialysis and how difficult it is to live a normal life when one has to be at the dialysis center three days a week for many hours,” she says. “In contrast to the conventional treatment approach, the newer developments for hemodialysis at home were very interesting, and in general, patients felt more in control.”

She concludes, “The KHI did a remarkable job focusing this meeting on patients and their caregivers, and providing resources to cover travel expenses. They should be commended and looked to by others as an example of getting ‘Patients Included’ right.”

PatientsLikeMe members Samantha-Anne (internettie) and Laura (Cherishedone) both received stipends to attend the workshop. We asked them about their experiences and here’s what they said:

Why was it important for you to attend this workshop event?

S: It is important to me as a patient to have a voice in my care and treatment. It was particularly important to me to attend this workshop because I wanted to be a voice for the patient who has not yet arrived at the need for dialysis or transplant and to ask what we can do to prevent chronic kidney disease (CKD) from progressing if possible. I know that not all cases can be prevented, but there are some that can. In my situation, my CKD was caused by the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If the consequences of using these drugs for such a long period of time had been made clear to me and if I had been offered some alternative treatments I may have made different treatment choices.

L: I have always been strongly committed to advocating for myself and others, and being given the opportunity to participate and then bring back the information to others whose lives are impacted by CKD and/or end stage renal disease (ESRD) equips us with insight to better advocate for ourselves.

Is this the first event like this that you’ve attended?

S: Yes, this is the first time that I was offered the opportunity to have a voice in patient care. It certainly will not be the last.

L: I have attended National Kidney Foundation (NKF) meetings with other patients and also participated on NKF committees (Patient and Family Executive Committee).

How did you feel about the focus on patient-centricity at this event?

S: I was thrilled to know that someone cared about what patients have to say about their own care. I think that with the advent of the Internet and patients having more access to information that they are more involved in their own care. Patients know more and want to know more about what illnesses are affecting their bodies and they also want to know what they can do to prevent some of these conditions from happening in the first place.

L: The patient-centricity was one of the most valuable components of the meeting. I am one to be very involved in giving back, but I would guess that for many, their disease leaves them feeling isolated. For this population to meet others who are not only surviving but thriving is very important. My hope is that many participants were encouraged to not let their CKD/ESRD define them, but rather to use it as a vehicle for being empowered and encouraged to live each day to the fullest extent, not be left feeling like a victim to the disease.

Did you feel like they supported you and listened to you while you were there?

S: I absolutely felt like I was listened to at this workshop. I had an opportunity to talk to so many people on all different levels of health care. I had wonderful conversations with Paul Conway (AAKP), Mark Ohen (Gore), Denny Treu (NxStage), Sally Okun (PatientsLikeMe), Prabir Roy-Chaudhury, MD, (ASN) Frank Hurst, MD (FDA), Francesca Tentori, ME (ARCH), and F.P. Wieringa, PhD (DKF). We all had the shared topic of kidney disease to discuss but I was amazed at how many people I had other areas in common with. Paul Conway knew my new hometown of Waterville, Maine, and Denny Treu was familiar with my former home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I feel like my love of research and my desire to learn new things and to share my experiences made this conference a catalyst for me to not only offer my view but to be asked to participate in conversations that I would not be privy to otherwise. I felt like I was engaged in the process and made to feel that my opinion was valued.

L: Most definitely!

What stood out to you as an attendee?

S: What stood out to me the most was that these doctors and vendors really wanted to hear what the patients had to say. I never felt like someone was asking for my opinion just to be nice or listening just to be polite. They seemed fully involved in what we, the patients, were saying. Being heard, as a patient, is honestly such a rare thing that to have people in places that can make life-changing decisions about our care hear what we have to say, is amazing.

L: Hearing about research that is ongoing as well as new technologies was very empowering, and left me feeling very encouraged about options available to those of us who have reached ESRD.

What was the most interesting takeaway for you?

S: As a patient the most interesting takeaway was that what I think and what I say really does count. As a person who loves research and used to do surveys and metrics for a living, the most interesting takeaway was that taking the time to craft a meaningful survey for patients is important. Turning data (survey results) into action (making a difference for the patient) is key.

L: Hearing about research that is ongoing for new technologies and ways to treat ESRD was most exciting.

What was it like to be able to interact with other patients who were attending?

S: It always helps to know that you are not alone. Even though we all have our own individual paths and we all fall on different places on the CKD continuum, we all have so much in common in how we feel and how we need to be heard. We can laugh at things that other people just would not understand. Kidney disease is not funny, but there is always some humor to be found in any difficult situation and being with like-minded people is good for the soul. Every single patient in that room is a hero. We all have a lot on our plate but we mustered up the strength to get ourselves to that conference to not only help ourselves but to help all those who come along after us. I know I was completely energized by being around everyone and at the same time could feel the drain of the illness that I deal with every day. It was worth every bit of energy it took to be there in Baltimore and I feel incredibly grateful that I was offered the opportunity to attend the conference. I made sure to thank everyone who played a role in getting me there and also to thank the other patients for sharing their stories and their thoughts and ideas.

I have been in my new community, Waterville, Maine, for about 2 1/2 months now. Going to the KHI conference in Baltimore made me realize that I need to be involved in my new town. I found a group walk in the downtown area (Waterville Walks! hosted by Waterville Maine Street), I attended a public health meeting as a member of the community (Healthy Northern Kennebec), and I participated in a workshop down in Hallowell, Maine at the Harlow Gallery (Healing Through Art: Confronting Your Inner Critic). My goal is to find out as much as I can about the resources that are available in this area. I understand that input from members of the community really is important and that the people asking for the input want to hear what people have to say. I am not surprised that so few people attend these community events thinking that they will be boring or useless, but I am doing my part to let everyone I cross paths with know that there is a lot to do out there, that there are unlimited ways to get involved, and that if you keep looking and put in some effort the resources can be found. I am grateful that the KHI conference has opened so many doors for me.

L: I love the interaction with other patients, and the opportunity to both learn and encourage others. I think it was important for many patients to feel they both have a voice and that our collective voices were not only being heard, but welcomed.

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog when we chat about what kind of planning it took to make this event as patient-centric as possible with those who ran it. And don’t forget to visit the site to connect with Samantha-Anne, Laura, and the nearly 1,000 other PatientsLikeMe members living with chronic kidney disease.

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Honoring Family Caregivers Everywhere

Posted November 26th, 2012 by

Is there a caregiver in your family?  For example, someone who looks out for an elderly parent or grandparent – or who cares for a child or spouse with a debilitating illness?

November Is National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time for recognizing the important role of family caregivers in our society as well as the challenges they face on a daily basis.  Currently more than 65 million Americans (or approximately 29% of the US population) are serving in a caregiver role in any given year, averaging 20 hours per week.  Approximately 66% are women. The value of services these caregivers provide for “free” when caring for older adults is estimated to be $375 billion per year.

Yet what many people may not think about is the economic and health impact on the family caregiver.  Financially, caregiving families have median incomes that are 15% lower than non-caregiving families, and women caregivers are 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty than non-caregivers.  In terms of health and well-being, approximately 40 to 70% of caregivers report clinically significant symptoms of depression, according to one study, while 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves.  Read other eye-opening caregiver statistics here.

PatientsLikeMe strives to support and involve caregivers with our “CareTeam” concept, which was developed to include everyone who participates in the care of our patient members.  That could be a spouse/partner, parent, child, doctor, therapist, home health worker, sibling, relative or friend.  Patients can invite caregivers to join PatientsLikeMe, and once they are members, send them a CareTeam invite to link together their profiles.  That way, both the patient and caregiver can stay abreast of how the other is doing physically, emotionally and socially.

ALS patient Persevering’s CareTeam members (his wife and his sister, respectively) are displayed in the “About Me” section of his profile.

Currently, there are more than 7,000 caregivers registered with PatientsLikeMe, many of whom are active users of our forums, who chart their own symptoms and treatments and who are seeking information, guidance and support directly from patients or other caregivers.  Browse their profiles – even if they have no specific health issues, caregivers can monitor their well-being with tools like our InstantMe and Quality of Life surveys – and find out what their life is like today.


Giving Caregivers the Recognition They Deserve

Posted November 16th, 2011 by

“The true strength of the American family finds its roots in an unwavering commitment to care for one another.”

– President Barack Obama

November is National Family Caregivers Month, “a time to thank, support, educate and empower family caregivers.”  There are more than 65 million family caregivers in the US who day in and day out fulfill a vital role on the care team for a family member.  They also tend to be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to daily treatment, diet and exercise regimens for the person they love.

November Is National Family Caregivers Month

The theme for National Family Caregivers Month 2011, sponsored by the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), is “Identifying Family Caregivers.”  The goal is to encourage both caregivers and medical providers to ask for a designated space on every medical intake form for a caregiver name.  Otherwise, the NFCA argues, caregivers are “invisible in American healthcare.”

In contrast, caregivers play an important and prominent role in PatientsLikeMe’s “CareTeam” concept, which was developed to include everyone who is actively involved in the care of our patient members.  That could be a spouse, partner, parent, child, doctor, home health worker, relative or friend.  Patients can invite anyone on their real-life CareTeam to join PatientsLikeMe and be linked directly to their profile.

Currently, there are more than 7,000 caregivers using PatientsLikeMe.  (Browse their profiles.)  Here is a sampling of their stories and situations:

  • “I am a mother who would like to know more about bipolar disorder and know how I can help my daughter, and let her know I care.”
  • “I am a caregiver for my wife, who has generalized epilepsy. I have allocated a big part of my life to help my wife become more stable.”
  • “In 2005 my husband was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease and through my desire to be the best caregiver possible I forgot about me.”
  • “My husband was diagnosed with ALS at age 47 in June 2007 on our 25th anniversary.  It’s hard to see not only his body deteriorate but his spirit too.”
  • “For decades, I have been caring for members of my family and community regarding mental illnesses and life challenges, mostly my beloved auntie.”
  • “On July 6, 2008, my partner got results saying he was HIV positive. It was a hard night for us, we cried and talked and cried some more.”
  • “I am 30 years old. I am one of the caretakers for my father who was diagnosed with ALS when I was 8 years old.   I try to be there for him as much as he needs.”

Are you a caregiver?  We encourage both you and the patient in your life to join PatientsLikeMe to share your experiences, find support and learn from other patients and caregivers.


Do You Know Someone with Dementia?

Posted September 21st, 2011 by

Today, September 21st, is World Alzheimer’s Day. For this annual event, Alzheimer’s associations around the globe are coming together to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, which affects an estimated 36 million people worldwide. This degenerative brain syndrome impacts memory, thinking, behavior and emotion. Eventually, those affected require assistance with all aspects of daily life.

"Faces of Dementia," the 2011 World Alzheimer's Day Theme

The theme of this year’s event is “Faces of Dementia,” and it is designed to show how this incurable disease knows no social, economic, ethnic or geographic boundaries. In addition, it pays tribute to those who work tirelessly to support and care for people with dementia. The need for such care will only increase as the world’s population ages. By 2050, the global prevalence of Alzheimer’s is expected to triple (115 million).

Here at PatientsLikeMe, we have both patients (or caregivers of patients) who have reported Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Early Onset Dementia, which is the term used when Alzheimer’s is diagnosed before the age of 65. If someone you love has exhibited signs of dementia – including memory loss, word-fishing, personality changes and difficulty performing routine tasks – talk to a healthcare professional as soon as possible.


Calling All Families Affected by Autism

Posted June 28th, 2011 by

Back in April, we wrote a blog post observing Autism Awareness Month. At that time, we had just over 100 members with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Now, just two months later, we’re pleased to report that our ASD membership has more than tripled with over 350 members reporting ASD and nearly 100 reporting Asperger’s syndrome.

Do you know someone who has a child with ASD? Currently, patients under the age of 20 comprise the largest segment of our ASD patient membership. As a result, we’ve created a leaflet for parents of children with ASD that explains the benefits of joining PatientsLikeMe as a parent/caregiver.

Click on the leaflet image below for a full-size, printable version:

Leaflet for Parents of Children with ASD (Click for a Full-size, Printable Version.)

Imagine the knowledge and support you could gain from finding other children like your child – or other parents like you. Because when you connect with others like you, you can learn what’s normal. You can see how other families are approaching treatment. Most importantly, you can discuss ASD challenges with people that truly understand.

We look forward to the continued growth of our ASD membership. If you know a family affected by ASD, please pass along this leaflet today.