2 posts tagged “social connections”

“It just makes sense to give back”: How PatientsLikeMe employees volunteered their time this year

Posted December 28th, 2017 by

Volunteering is a big part of the culture at PatientsLikeMe. Inspired by PatientsLikeMe members, who have made our online community a place to find support and answers about health, we do our best to give something back to our local community, too. This year, many of our staff members pitched in and gave their time to organizations all over the greater Boston area. Here’s what we’ve been up to this year…

  • 50 PLMers (that’s what we like to call ourselves) volunteered during PatientsLikeMe’s service month in November
  • Those individuals volunteered a total of 260 hours
  • …and supported 18 different organizations in the greater Boston area

Check out some of the places we volunteered our time this year, and see these PLMers in action…

PatientsLikeMe staff members volunteer at Rosie’s Rosie’s Place

Rosie’s Place is a women’s shelter in Boston that was created to service poor and homeless women. They not only provide shelter, but also support 12,000 women a year with a wide range of services including housing and education.

Tori, Katie, Kim and Rebecca volunteer at Community Servings

Community Servings is a not-for-profit food and nutrition program whose mission is to provide services throughout Massachusetts to individuals and families living with critical and chronic illnesses. They provide home-delivered meals and nutrition services that are medically-tailored to the individuals receiving them, based on their condition. Right now, they deliver to 20 cities and towns across Massachusetts, and are beginning a pilot program in Rhode Island.

Jeremy, George, Jenni and Amber volunteer at Healthcare for the Homeless

Boston Healthcare for the Homeless program supports more than 12,000 homeless men, women and children, and provides access to comprehensive healthcare, from preventive dental care to cancer treatment.

Extending our mission from online to offline

Maria Lowe, Co-chair of the PatientsLikeMe Social and Volunteer Committee, helped organize and coordinate these volunteer efforts in 2017. “I think it’s so important to take time to think about how others around us might not have some of the things we take for granted,” she said. “To me, it just makes sense to give back in whatever ways that I can.” In fostering a culture of volunteerism at PatientsLikeMe, Maria says it fits with our core message. “We’re all about putting patients first and we have our “give something, get something” philosophy, so I think giving back to our local community however we can is just a natural extension of that.”

Here’s to another year of building stronger communities, together.

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75k [virtual] hugs on PatientsLikeMe – and how social connections are good for your health

Posted August 22nd, 2017 by

Newsflash: “Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health,” as The New York Times recently reported. Decades of research support the theory that social connections can have a positive effect on your health. Having social ties may help prevent illness and is still a boon to your health when you’re sick or living with a health condition. Check out some of the research and see how members are supporting each other socially on PatientsLikeMe.

What’s the science behind social connections?

As the Times reports, a 2001 study found that people with coronary artery disease who’ve had a heart attack have a lower risk of another cardiac arrest if they’re more socially connected. Other studies have shown that social interactions and support may help with everything from wound healing and physical pain to mood and psychological symptoms.

Researchers who’ve studied the benefits of social interactions for women with breast cancer have found that receiving social-emotional support may reduce stress and affect the body’s “HPA” axis (or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – that’s a mouthful). Basically, the HPA axis uses glands, hormones and nerves to help regulate several processes in the body: stress response, immune and digestive systems, mood and emotions, sexuality and energy storage.

Studies show that “instrumental support” (like in-person assistance with getting to appointments and taking medications) is helpful to people with health conditions, but some researchers say that “social-emotional support” (connecting face-to-face or online) is critical in disease management. Another New York Times article notes that long-distance friendships are beneficial, and “in many studies, friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member.”

Here for each other – on PatientsLikeMe

Many PatientsLikeMe members arrived here because of their diagnosis – but they’re discussing more than their health on the site. Many build a virtual network of comrades with whom they chat or check in about their weekends, birthdays, holidays, hobbies and more. For some people, having a health condition may make it harder to get out and socialize face-to-face, and for others, an in-person network of “normals” (people without health issues) doesn’t always get it.

Here are some stats about non–health-related exchanges on PatientsLikeMe:

  • 8,372 “happy birthday” posts
  • 8,209 “here for you” posts
  • 4,921 “happy for you” posts
  • 3,144 “Merry Christmas” + 950 “Happy Holidays” posts
  • 6,126 “this weekend” + 570 “your weekend” posts
  • 2,254 “how are you doing?” + 1,256 “how are you feeling?” posts
  • 2,229 “I hear you” posts
  • 866 “made my day” posts
  • And, finally… 75,553 “hugs”

Let’s talk (OT)!  

Just to name a few “off topic” (“OT”) discussions on PatientsLikeMe…

  • In the Parkinson’s disease forum, members have swapped lots of jokes and pics of their artwork for almost a decade.
  • In the MS forum, members play “Ask the next person a question” and all sorts of word games.
  • Members of the mental health community have kept their “Three word story” thread going strong for seven years, and shared their “Goals for today” with each other for even longer.
  • “Potpourri” and family photos threads in the ALS forum have been go-to places to share about non-ALS stuff.

What would you like to chat about? Join the community today and click the green button to “Start a new topic” like the ones above (or whatever you can think of!).

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