A new programme to help the 1 in 10 people in Ireland with multimorbidity or multiple chronic diseases manage their conditions better has been devised by researchers at Trinity College Dublin and the Royal College of Surgeons. A recent study has shown that the first of its kind self management programme improves quality of life and gives patients greater confidence in managing their multimorbidity.
Chronic diseases are health conditions that last more than six months and are not curable, for example heart disease, mental health diseases and arthritis. Multimorbidity is when an individual has two or more chronic conditions and in Ireland approximately 11% of people over fifty have multimorbidity with this number increasing with age.
Associate Professor, Dr Deirdre Connolly of the Discipline of Occupational Therapy in Trinity and Professor Susan Smith, Department of General Practice and HRB Centre for Primary Care Research, RCSI, have developed and tested a six-week self-management programme, OptiMaL (OccuPaTional therapy self-Management of Lifestyle), aimed at increasing activity participation and quality of life of people with multimorbidity.
The programme provides participants with knowledge and skills to become effective self-managers of their health and covers areas such as fatigue and pain management, stress management, physical activity, how to manage multiple medications and how to communicate effectively with health professionals.
A randomised control trial showed that OptiMaL participants were significantly more active and more satisfied with their daily activities and had better quality of life than those in the control group. In addition, those who attended the programme reported significantly higher levels of confidence in managing their multimorbidity.
Speaking about the significance of these results, Dr Connolly, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy in Trinity said: “The impact of multimorbidity for an individual is wide reaching and includes difficulty with carrying out daily activities such as work and leisure, reduced quality of life, and psychological distress. Given the complexity of multimorbidity current treatment approaches are often quite fragmented,”
Dr Connolly continued: “This research shows that the OptiMaL programme addresses a number of those difficulties experienced by people with multimorbidity. It significantly increases people’s participation in daily activities which is considered an important predictor of health and well-being. The next stage of this research is to carry out a larger study with a longer follow-up period to test the long term benefits of OptiMaL.”
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