Saturday, 30 June 2012

IPWSO's new FamCare (Family Care) project

IPWSO is exited to tell you about a new venture it is undertaking.  Called "FamCare", it is designed to find ways of supporting families around the world who are caring for their adult child with PWS at home.  We know that there are many of you doing this and looking for answers to questions, or just for someone else to say, "we know what you're going through".

Georgina Loughnan, from Sydney, Australia, who is an IPWSO Board member, is heading up this new project.  She has worked over the past 21 years as a clinician with adults and adolescents with PWS.  She has seen families continually work hard to provide and access the best care possible for their adult children with PWS, and recognises the difficulty that this can pose.  She says:

"As children develop into adolescents and adults, families continue to struggle to find the most appropriate setting for them.  It is these areas that need to be addressed as soon as possible for the adult child with PWS, to ensure that every environment they spent time in is as appropriate to the needs of someone with PWS as possible.

"Finding a school that will step up to the challenges demanded by someone with PWS is a difficult task.  The school years can be most rewarding and above all, secure for a child with PWS if the service providers fully understand the syndrome and the specific needs it brings.  On leaving school, the adult child with PWS faces a whole new lifestyle, one that inevitably offers many opportunities for great independence and high hopes.  However, people with PWS can never survive well with independence, especially in travel or situations that provide even the hint of access to food.

"All environments into which adults with PWS venture need to be appropriately managed to prevent the development of overweight and difficult behaviour.  Where an adult child with PWS remains living at home with the family, it will always be up to the family members and any other people supporting the adult with PWS to make provisions for the best possible environment."

FamCare's aim is to support families who need help, inspiration, new ideas, and just plain common-sense answers to the every-day problems that arise in caring for and managing the situations that arise when living with an adult with PWS at home. 

Watch this space... there will be more!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Reflecting on unfairness...

After writing last week about the importance of forward-planning for our sons or daughters with PWS -  something that will stand them in good stead as they enter their older years - I was rudely reminded how fragile this whole thing can be.  A newspaper article written about Spain's financial difficulties included the story of two families, each with a young boy with PWS whose lives were being well-managed thanks to the availability of Growth Hormone Treatment.  However, because of the fiscal difficulties in their country, access to this treatment had been completely restricted and no longer available to them.  It is a reminder how carefully built networks can so easily be blown away in a puff of wind.

It is so disheartening to read things like this knowing what a struggle it has been - and still is - around the world to convince medical authorities of the importance that Growth Hormone plays in the well-being of those with PWS.  I know what a struggle it was in my country, New Zealand, to convince the powers-that-be to make GHT available to children with PWS, and we had to fight for our rights up to the highest parliamentary level.    It is not only disheartening for parents, but also for the medical professionals who have researched and proven the benefits of this treatment for their patients, only to have it snatched away.

Some might say, at least the boys had the treatment for a few years and this should stand them in good stead, but experience has proved that when GH is stopped, there is a reversal in the muscle tone and, for some, in other areas of development, and this can be quite a major turnaround.  For these Spanish boys, there is a huge injustice in this decision.  There is, in fact, a huge injustice in most countries where GH is not freely available, and where medical treatment, support, and even understanding of the syndrome is not to be found.

IPWSO is planning to develop a series of forums on its website, for the medical professionals, one for the caregivers, and one for parents.  The parents forum - which will have a translation button - is a place where all parents can meet and share experiences.  Most of all, this can be a place where parents can ask questions  which can be directed to professionals who may be able to shed light on a problem.  Sometimes there are no answers, but other parents may have had similar experiences that they can share which may help.

It is important to know we are not alone in the world.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

What comes next?

Looking through some papers that have recently made it to my desk, I was reminded by this one just how difficult it is in looking forward and anticipating the needs that our young children will encounter in their lives.  Entitled "Complex Care Needs - PWS" the author of this paper makes the following reflection:

When thinking about multidisciplinary care, the scenario often involves elderly patients with a multitude of chronic diseases. In focusing on a completely different age-group, it was amazing to discover the amount of forward thinking that goes into the care of those with congenital disorders and complex care needs. 

The author, an Australian medical student in her final year, was following the case study of a very young boy.  She noted that his parents had actively engaged with a team of professionals for their son, namely: a paediatrician, GP, endocrinologist, dietician, speech pathologist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist.  The author goes on to point out that:

"Not only do goals and requirements of care constantly change with increasing age and ongoing development of the child, but parents and practitioners are constantly having to forward think about contingencies for any potentially arising complications in addition to putting into place plans for what will need to happen when the parents themselves pass on and their offspring will still require care."

And I agree with her.  There is a huge amount of forward planning that has to go into a child with any disability, let alone PWS, in considering the future quality of life that this child might have.  I would go further and say that all of this planning relies on the ability of the parent/s to be able to work through a quagmire of red tape and bureaucracy in order to get results.  How very difficult it is for any parent to find the right agencies who will provide support,  help and medication for their son or daughter.  And that's just in our Western countries where, somewhere along the line, help can be found.

How much more difficult is it for parents in countries where this help is not forthcoming, or it is too difficult even to find the start of that long and winding road.    IPWSO is very aware of this and has its own large network of professionals in over 90 countries around the world which may be the start point a parent needs.

If you need help - start here.  Email your questions to us at IPWSO  We will do our utmost to help you find answers.