Over the past few years, I have experienced close and personal what it means to have people you know / love / care about deal with chronic ailments – For e.g.: Diabetes, Chronic Renal Failure, Cancer, etc.
And if there’s one thing I can say with absolute certainty it’s this – Its NOT EASY!
It’s NOT EASY for the patient
It’s NOT EASY for the immediate family and friends
Dealing with chronic ailments which will most likely be a part of your life till the very end tests you on many dimension of life. Mainly
- Physical – Your body goes through a lot lot lot! Hard for anyone to “truly understand”; Suffice to say that it has to endure! There is no escape!
- Mental – Stress and Tension of every-day living; & dealing with emergencies
- Social – Pressures of society : Questions, Pity, Free unwarranted Advice, Suggestions (many times useless and destructive), Criticism, Feedback, Opinions, etc
- Financial – There is a financial strain, whether or not you have insurance
- Emotional – Why me? Why us? Tears, fear, uncertainty. Lack of interest in life, When will this agony end?
- Lack of timely knowledge – No clue of what to do? Where to go? Whom to ask?
And here’s where I believe Social Media can really help and make a difference – Both to the patient itself or to those caring for the patient.
So, How can Social Media really make a DIFFERENCE?
(1) By providing information – One of the key challenges in dealing with chronic ailments is getting access to the right information at the right time. Especially in terms of treatment options and the institutes providing it at affordable costs. Providing this information as a “one-stop” repository will prove to be invaluable ; and help in decision making at a vulnerable and critical point in the choice of treatment
(2) By providing emotional relief – The emotional highs and lows that engulf the patient, family and care-giver are unimaginable. Social media can be a welcome break by making you laugh, changing your perspective or just feeling inspired to live another day!
(3) By being a mental de-stresser – The mental stress that the patient, family and care-giver go through can sometime be enormous, and hard to deal with. Social media can be a great de-stresser in more than one way – Providing information, connecting you to experts / experienced / advisers who can possibly provide timely guidance and intervention to enable you to tide through the situation.
(4) By creating a “new social world” – Many people ailing from chronic ailments have told that when people from the real world get to know about their ailments, “something changes” in the relationship. They can’t pin-point what it is, but things are no longer the same – And this is from both ends. Many patients don’t want to / wish to interact with their “real-world” connections , and tend to distance themselves. At such instances, “creating a new social world” through the power of Social media can be a real blessing!
What Social Media Channels would be EFFECTIVE?
Honestly, I think choosing the right channel is important, and there are abundant options available.
(1) Twitter – A twitter handle which shares regular updates on a specific ailment. Specific Twitter hashtags will aid in searching for specific information
(2) Blogs / Web-sites – Information sources which focus on a specific topic, and share useful information from patients, care-givers , insurers and people from the medical fraternity would be an invaluable repository. One of the best examples I can think of is BabyCenter.com – which has become the ultimate online resource for most expecting mother (I’m giving this only as an example here). Something like this for chronic ailments like cancer, chronic renal failure, etc. would be AWESOME!
(3) Pinterest – Boards around a specific topic / sub-topic containing information which can consolidate information, enable decision making or simply bring a smile to a “tired and stressed mind and heart” will make an ocean of difference
(4) Communities / Groups – Like a LinkedIn Community, Google+ Hang-out or a community blog where people can interact in a honest and transparent fashion can make a lot of difference. From what I’ve seen, just knowing that there are so many people out there enduring the same “pain and trials” on a daily basis – some better / some worse, makes it easier to accept and deal with one’s personal situation!
And I hope this post inspires someone somewhere to leverage the power of Social Media to help many people dealing with Chronic ailments!