What Is the Main Idea?

Outside of the doctor-patient interaction, patients with chronic disease need support to navigate their medical and mental journey with their new life changes. Here, we discuss how peer mentoring can help the patients through the journey. Based on the open access research article “Effect of Peer Mentoring on Quality of Life among CKD Patients: Randomized Controlled Trial” in the journal Kidney Diseases, we address how online mentoring has helped improve the quality of life of chronic kidney disease patients.

What Else Can You Learn?

From this article, one can understand what exactly is peer mentoring and the different forms of peer mentoring. This can help people with chronic diseases decide if it is something they would like to pursue.

Peer Mentoring in Chronic Diseases

Mentoring is the process where less experienced people receive guidance from more experienced individuals to achieve their goals. Mentoring can happen at different levels. In peer mentoring for health conditions, the mentors are people who have or have previously gone through similar health issues. They have both experiential knowledge and are trained regarding the particular disease condition. Having lived through the condition, they bring in the human connection that is required, and the relationship is non-hierarchical, reciprocal, and entirely patient-centric.

How Does Peer Mentoring Help the Quality of Life?

Many diseases, especially chronic diseases, reduce the quality of life drastically. Upon diagnosis or treatment of the disease, patients require to change their daily habits and lifestyle. There could also be pain and other health issues to concurrently deal with. This leads to issues of firstly being able to adhere to the new routine and medical regimen, and secondly, having your social circle understand your new lifestyle. Poor adherence can lead to the health getting worse, and dealing with lifestyle changes can take a mental toll. While doctors prescribe and give information about what must be done, when actually putting it into practice, patients end up having many queries. They also need support emotionally.

When it comes to chronic kidney disease, as written in the earlier article “World Kidney Day: Advocacy for Patient-Centered Wellness”, it is important to empower patients and help them to be able to participate in daily activities to improve their quality of life.

Peer mentoring is one solution that can help with these issues. The patients get support to deal with disease-related issues such as fear of going through certain procedures like dialysis. Peer mentoring also helps with mental support as they can get tips and guidance on how to handle the disease and social situations.

What Are the Different Kinds of Peer Mentoring?

There are many models to peer mentoring, such as described by Heisler:

  1. Group self-management programs – here the group sets their goals and a leader helps in facilitating it. These are usually face-to-face programs.
  2. Peer coaches – this is a one-on-one program where the coaches are given some initial training on the health condition.
  3. Community health workers – they are people who bridge the local social and cultural aspects within the community and the healthcare system. They may or may not be peers for the disease itself but are trained to give necessary support and help guide and connect patients to additional support.
  4. Telephone-based peer support – when distance is an issue, telephone-based mentoring is an alternative. This support can also be an add-on to other programs like group self-management.
  5. Web- and email-based peer program – when distance is again an issue, with modern technology, one can create video-based web programs similar to the face-to-face programs.

New Study Shows Online Peer Mentoring for Chronic Kidney Disease Works Best

For the first time, researchers had a systematic look at how the quality of life improved in chronic kidney disease patients in multiple peer mentoring scenarios. The 3 different interventions that were tried were face-to-face mentoring, online mentoring and a control group. All groups were given access to a textbook on “Patient and Family Partner Program”. In online mentoring, mentors and mentees could communicate through a secure online interactive platform with content developed specifically for the program and requirements of the patients. There were weekly reminders by the mentors for the action plan and more meetings were arranged as required. The quality-of-life questionnaire was used as a way to assess different aspects of their life. The online mentoring showed significantly better improvement in the quality of life in all parameters examined of the patients at 18 months compared to face-to-face mentoring or no external mentoring.

What Does It Mean to a Person with a Chronic Disease?

If a person with chronic disease feels the need for help outside of the doctor-patient interaction, you should check with your hospital, community or even online for these peer mentoring programs. While living with the disease is not necessarily easy, you can take steps to improve your quality of living and self-care by using the available facilities.

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