Notes from the editor
This month you’ll read about the travails of a lady stricken by Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in ‘A Slice of Life’. If you don’t already know, PD is a debilitating neuromuscular condition that slowly strips away a person’s capacity to perform even routine tasks like buttoning up a shirt, holding a cup of tea, or walking. Our lady is spiritedly fighting her disease. But she also frankly admits that had it not been for the support she received from the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Society, her progress would have been far slower. The increasing dependency can not only make the victim depressed but can place a huge burden on the caregiver. Meeting other people mired in similar circumstances and exchanging notes helped her and her husband understand the disease better, and cope with the daily problems it posed. Support Groups are truly the need of the hour. We just don’t have enough of them in our towns, villages, and cities to help the chronically ill manage their conditions. As our Slice of Life lady avers, “When you feel connected with other people who are going through the same thing as you, you feel more power to make changes. You think ‘If he can do it, so can I. He’s like me.’ Change seems more possible, because you see that these other people have done it.” While a Support Group is one way to connect with similarly affected individuals, there is another way to achieve the same end – viz. shared medical appointments. This is a relatively new phenomenon that is yet to take off in India. The biggest complaint that most patients have is that they don’t get enough time with their doctors. Shared medical appointments address this problem. They combine the individual attention of a typical consultation with the benefits of support group dynamics. While most shared medical appointments involve people with the same condition, say heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis, others may bring together people with different health concerns. Each shared appointment period starts with a one-on-one consultation with each member, conducted privately or in the group, to document changes in symptoms, and check medications, blood pressure, etc. This is often followed by group education. One attractive benefit of shared medical appointments is that they provide more time with specialists and other health professionals in contrast to the 5- or 10-min individual consultation that a patient typically gets. Another advantage of meeting in this kind of setting is that, during the appointment, you have time to think, reflect and overhear things the doctor says to other patients in the group that may help you. Simultaneously participants who gather for these appointments can spontaneously connect and share helpful tips and information with each other – it could be about coping with joint pain, overcoming insomnia, eating healthier or reducing stress. This social mixing can produce energy to fuel real change. So don’t be surprised if one of these days, you hear your doctor/specialist suggesting the idea of clubbing patients’ appointments. Of course, for a medical professional this is simply a way to solve his time crisis. For you, on the other hand, it may be just the thing you need to prompt you to act on medical advice and adopt a healthier lifestyle! In other words, it’s a win-win situation all around.