3 posts tagged “Quality of Life survey”

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.


Know Thyself. Quantify Thyself.

Posted August 13th, 2012 by

Are you someone who likes to track things about yourself?  For example, do you keep an exercise log of how many reps you did – or a food journal that details what (and how much) you consumed?  Do you monitor your health and disease progression at PatientsLikeMe?

Quantified Self

If so, you might not know it, but you are part of the growing Quantified Self (QS) movement.  Also known as “Body Data” and “Life Hacking,” the QS movement was started by Wired magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007.  The idea is to increase self knowledge through self tracking.  More specifically, QSers use technology to record data on various aspects of human life, from “inputs” (food, air) to “states” (moods, blood oxygen levels ) to “performance” (mental, physical).

The hub of the movement is http://quantifiedself.com/, an online community where QSers can share their methods and learn from what others are doing.  In addition, QSers get together face-to-face for regular Show&Tell meetings in various cities around the world as well as an annual conference, which takes place this September in Palo Alto, California.  According to the website, the conference is a “working meeting” for users and tool makers looking to collaborate on self-tracking projects and explore the potential effects of self-tracking on society.

Larry Smarr, Founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and Professor of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at the University of California at San Diego.  Photo Credit: Grant Delin, The Atlantic.

For many QSers, such as astrophysicist-turned-computer scientist Larry Smarr, self-tracking conveys huge benefits.  According to this fascinating profile in The Atlantic entitled “The Measured Man,” Smarr sees it as a tool for battling obesity, defeating incurable diseases (in his case, Crohn’s disease) and revolutionizing healthcare.  He’s got a good reason, too:  this is a man who monitored his own blood work and detected an inflammatory state in his body long before his first Crohn’s symptom appeared.   While some people feel that with enough data every person could find something wrong with their health, Smarr argues that it’s far better to detect that something’s “beginning to go wrong” and seek “preventative maintenance,” just like you would with an automobile.

It’s a striking analogy.  Could we as human beings extend our lives – just as we extend the lives of our cars – through data tracking and “tune-ups”?  It’s one of the big questions at the heart of the QS movement.  But as far as we’re concerned here at PatientsLikeMe, self knowledge – as well as shared knowledge – is always a good thing.  That’s why we’ve developed tools to help you measure your disease progression (e.g. our Multiple Sclerosis Rating Scale), track how your treatments impact your quality of life, monitor over 200 lab results (e.g. Vitamin D, cholesterol, PSA levels) and record how you are feeling day-to-day (our InstantMe survey).  Better yet, we help you share that data with other patients like you, so that everyone benefits and learns.

What do you think?  Has “quantifying yourself” led to any breakthroughs for you?


How to Thrive: Takeaways from TEDx Cambridge

Posted November 30th, 2011 by

Patient Experience Manager Kate Brigham and I attended TEDx Cambridge last week, a one-day event full of thought-provoking and inspirational talks about Ideas Worth Spreading (TED’s mission). The participants didn’t want to just survive, they wanted to Thrive, which was this year’s theme. Speakers, including our President and Co-Founder Ben Heywood, enlightened the crowd with how we can help ourselves in small ways and inspire others in the process.

The Entrance to TEDx Cambridge 2011

Throughout four sessions packed with 30+ speakers on the topics of Mind, Body, We, and Beyond, many shared how people can improve themselves individually, by being part of a community, and by giving back to others. Some advice is expected—sleep more, drink less caffeine, eat more vegetables, try yoga—but other points were more novel.

For example, we were encouraged by Matt Daniell to try something, anything, for a month as “time becomes much more memorable when undertaking 30 day challenges.” Using research on the effects of body posture on hormones, Amy Cuddy shared that doing a power pose for just a few minutes (like putting your feet up on your desk) is minimal effort, but can benefit your brain as well as others’ perception of you. (Note: she recommended we put our feet up in private, not in a meeting!) One of the lessons that seemed to resonate most was from Priya Parker, who encouraged the audience to not worry about keeping all options open—that it’s FOMO (the fear of missing out) and FOBO (the fear of better opportunities) that contribute to many people’s anxiety and stress.

PatientsLikeMe President and TEDx Speaker Ben Heywood (Center) Along with Brothers Jamie Heywood (Left) and Stephen Heywood (Right), Whose ALS Diagnosis Inspired the Creation of PatientsLikeMe

In addition to Ben talking about PatientsLikeMe, other speakers shared the importance of connecting people with others like them, making data more accessible and empowering patients to take control of their health. Greg Epstein and Jesus Gerena, although in different fields (a Humanist Chaplain and Activist, respectively) arrived at the same conclusion: that when people come together and help one another, the entire group is empowered and everyone benefits.

Our ears also perked up when Sandy Pentland, a social scientist at MIT, discussed how important data is and stated that “personal data is the new oil of the Internet.” Further affirming the importance of data, John Sheffield talked about how he wants to make sure that genomics analysis is accessible, repeatable and shareable. He’s found in his field of data architecture that’s it’s all about connections with others, a point of view we certainly share!

Heart Patient and TEDx Speaker Hugo Campos

One story that perhaps applies most to what we’re doing here at PatientsLikeMe was presented by Hugo Campos, a heart patient who is literally on a quest to liberate data from his own heart. Although he has a high-tech cardiac defibrillator, he doesn’t have access to the data collected by this device. We’re with you, Hugo: “We all have the right to our own health information!”

At PatientsLikeMe, we help people Thrive by connecting patients so that they can share their experiences, find others like them and, together, learn how to best improve their health. From disease-specific outcome scores to our Quality of Life survey and InstantMe tool, we offer all sorts of ways to monitor your health and assess the impact of various treatments and interventions.

How do you help yourself and others Thrive? Share your thoughts in the comments section.  Also, check out the video of Ben’s talk.

PatientsLikeMe member emorgan