Jack, 65, from Lincolnshire, has no fewer than 11 long-term conditions. As well as managing asthma, osteoarthritis, depression, carpal tunnel syndrome, a colostomy bag as a result of surgery for colon cancer, an underactive thyroid, diabetes, cataracts, an enlarged prostate and problems with his gall bladder, Jack has recently been diagnosed with cervical myelopathy (problems in his spine caused by osteoarthritis).
Jack’s health conditions have had a big impact on his life. He's given up many of his passions because of the functional change that multimorbidity, including arthritis, has brought to his life. One difficult change was his decision to stop breeding dogs and training horses, hobbies that were very important to him: "I used to do lots of active things that are now just impossible".
Instead, he's picked up new hobbies, fuelled by his love of knowledge and lifelong learning. "I'm nearly 70 chronologically, but mentally I'm 40". Jack's an avid reader, which he compliments with French lessons and classes at his local adult education centre. He's also active in his local branch of the University of the Third Age, taking a keen interest in their genealogy group.
However, managing multimorbidity impacts on all areas of Jack’s life. The plethora of medications Jack needs to take require careful management to minimise repeat trips to the pharmacy. Along with a time-consuming daily exercise regime, this means Jack’s life has lost its spontaneity. "I’ve got four pages of repeat prescriptions, of about 13 different medications, plus non-pharmacological items to help manage blood sugars and my colostomy.
"The trouble is they all get out of sync, so I'm in and out of the GPs ordering repeat prescriptions and picking stuff up from the pharmacy virtually every week."
Jack finds the need to attend multiple clinics for his different long-term conditions particularly stressful and exhausting. Recently, Jack had a clinical consultation in Sheffield (he drove himself the 2-hour journey there, although he sees a day where he'll no longer be able to drive), which required a follow up by x-ray. It was only when Jack highlighted the difficulties of returning for another appointment that arrangements were made for him to have the x-ray on the same day.
But too often such join up doesn’t occur, and after so many separate appointments, Jack is ‘wiped out’ which can mean him missing out on the activities he loves.
Coordinating to avoid compromises
Jack's already given up a great deal because of living with multimorbidity, including his beloved wolfhounds. But he believes that the lack of coordination from the health system, which currently means he has to make further compromises, could be avoided. His asks for the system are simple:
- That healthcare professionals communicate with each other and ensure important details are noted down clearly.
- That he could have a single touchpoint in the system, someone with an overview of all his conditions, that he could go to for help and advice.
You can download our latest policy report, Musculoskeletal conditions and multimorbidity (PDF, 8.2MB), to find out how we're helping people like Jack.