Self-care tools that empower and encourage

Self-Care Week and COPD Day has been successfully raising awareness of the many ways people with long-term conditions can use self-care tools to live well.

It’s a theme that NHS England is keen to promote. Simon Steven’s NHS England’s Five Year Forward View1 has focused healthcare goals around the need to challenge “the traditional divide between patients and professionals, and offering opportunities for better health through increased prevention and supported self-care. As people become expert patients, the need to use services will reduce. The intention is to break the cycle of unnecessary dependency on direct medical advice when this is not necessary.”

At Activ8rlives, we identified that technology should help us learn more about our health back in 2007, and we set out to develop tools or technology that could help us as a family to find or learn the links between healthy or low-risk lifestyle factors. As techy people, we wanted some assists in helping us keep track of weight loss, being habitually active, adopting a healthier diet and eating behaviours, improving our medication compliance for asthma, hay fever and mild allergies. With self-monitoring and self-care, we identified early signposts for us to improve our diet, our heart health, reduce exacerbations, quality of life and wellbeing. The protective aspects of changing to a healthier lifestyle has made a difference to our health outcomes.

Over the last few years, we, and others like us, have developed tools that can improve our health literacy and knowledge, help us engage and feel empowered, so self-care is now within everyone’s grasp. With some simple tools, arms-length support and encouragement, preventive self-care is possible for all.

And it’s vital that awareness weeks, like Self-Care Week, promote what can be achieved and how that can help patients, families and communities. Now winter is here, GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and social care partners are on alert to detect early signs of respiratory exacerbations, especially in the elderly.  At the same time care pathways are being redesigned to prevent hospital admissions in the first instance, providing care and support at home for those most at risk of hospitalisation. Self-monitoring of vital signs by the patient themselves as part of an agreed programme of Self-Care constructed in collaboration with the patient can form a cornerstone in reducing admissions and readmissions2.

Self-monitoring brings with it education, engagement and empowerment when undertaken with the encouragement and support of healthcare professionals. For example, over the last 12 months, we’ve been helping one of our Clinical Trial participants, Pauline, to improve her health and wellbeing. As a sufferer of Bronchiectasis, a long-term lung disease3, Pauline is a real inspiration to others with respiratory disease – showing that a few minutes of self-monitoring a day can help lung sufferers to stay out of hospital and keep well, whilst making improvements to health and enjoying life.

Pauline has regained 20-25% of her lung function since she started using the Activ8rlives Lung Health App and is actively engaging in Self-Care. I hope her story, which we shared during Self-Care Week, will help inspire others to find out more about Self-Care and how it can transform the lives of patients and their families.

This is a guest article by Activ8rlives co-Founder Jessica Auton

  1. Simon Steven’s, Five Year Way Forward plan, 2014.
  2. COPD Commissioning Toolkit: A Resource for Commissioners. Medical Directorate, NHS England (August 2012).
  3. Respiratory Self-Care: case study of Pauline. Activ8rlives. November, 2015.

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