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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) presents many transitions for persons/people with ALS (PwALS) and their caregivers. Transitions are passages from one life phase, condition, or status to another. We used qualitative methods to understand how PwALS and caregivers experience transitions throughout their ALS journey.
PwALS and their caregivers were recruited from a multidisciplinary ALS clinic in Edmonton, Canada. We recruited patients at the stage of ALS that home mechanical ventilation, a feeding tube, and/or assistive communication technology had been offered. Semi-structured interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using qualitative thematic analysis.
We interviewed 14 PwALS and 15 caregivers and identified 5 recurring themes. The importance of community was identified by many PwALS and caregivers who expressed feelings of loneliness and isolation. Most caregivers were spouses and couples navigated a change in their relationship roles as one spouse transitioned to becoming a caregiver while the other transitioned to dependency. The caregiver spouses reported a sense of “total responsibility” that encompassed continual vigilance for the PwALS’s well-being, managing their household and finances. PwALS and caregivers reported transitioning to reliance on life-sustaining medical devices; early adoption and information on these devices increased their quality of life. Participants also wanted more and earlier information on advanced care planning. PwALS and caregivers identified adapting to new forms of communication as a necessity.
ALS presents many transitions for PwALS and caregivers. Understanding these transitions is important for ALS healthcare professionals who seek to implement best care practices.
We explore how principles predicting the success of a medical information commons (MIC) advantaged or disadvantaged three MIC initiatives in three Canadian provinces. Our MIC case examples demonstrate that practices and policies to promote access to and use of health information can help improve individual healthcare and inform a learning health system. MICs were constrained by heterogenous health information protection laws across jurisdictions and risk-averse institutional cultures. A networked approach to MICs would unlock even more potential for national and international data collaborations to improve health and healthcare.
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