Introduction The multi-faceted nature of Huntington's disease (HD) presents an argument for professionals to work in close collaboration with care givers in training and service provision. It is argued that there is a case to further develop services where part of the required care is jointly delivered by professionals and carers at the same clinical setting. This will enhance mutual understanding of the scientific and clinical aspects of HD together with specific individual needs. While professionals are at risk of overgeneralization and ‘stereotyping’ patients, carers find it difficult to disentangle HD from the ‘person’ behind it. It is also sometimes difficult for carers to utilize the outcome of various assessments therapeutically to benefit their loved ones and ‘lighten up’ their care giving burden.
Our model Carers are usually invited to give formal talks to the team and trainees. A carers’ representative is always invited to service development meetings. That person does also act as a mediator seeking other carers’ views and communicating any concerns to managers. Similarly, our team members are regular attendees to the local support group meetings. This is not only for educational purposes but also to communicate and seek views on service changes. Team members did joint publications with carers. In the context of our inter-disciplinary clinic, a carer is always available at the waiting area explaining to patients what they should expect. She also provides information about the disorder and the role of the support group using a variety of posters and leaflets. Many carers take the opportunity to discuss their concerns; often raising different matters with ‘a fellow carer’ than with other team members. She will then attend part of the meeting after the clinic to feedback on how the clinic was run. Further, that carer spends time with trainees who find talking to a carer with a firsthand experience of HD quite enlightening. They are then able to appreciate the consequences of this disorder on family dynamics. They also have a better understanding of how scientific and clinical information be personalized to help patients and families.
Conclusion The value of involving carers in shaping services and tailoring individual care plans as well as training junior clinicians cannot be over estimated.
- working with carers
- Huntington's disease
- professional and informal carers