My idea is a web-based and/or smartphone app-based program that allows dying individuals or their loved ones to connect with individuals that are uniquely suited to provide support and guidance. It is a re-imagination of the concept of a classic support group; rather than attending a more generic support group (often based on diagnosis alone), the program would allow individuals to specify the characteristics that are most important to them in an "empathizer" or "sponsor," and match them accordingly. (updated 7/13/2016)
There are already many support groups, both online and in person, for people dealing with specific disease processes. These groups are inherently designed to bring together individuals with one thing in common - in the case of cancer support groups, this commonality is usually a unifying diagnosis. These groups are often diverse in all other respects, which is not necessarily a bad thing.... It is likely beneficial for 40-year-olds to speak with 20- and 60-year-olds, for those with children of different ages to compare family dynamic and for those of different faiths to discuss their unique approaches to adversity. However, the advice and support of someone with more similar backgrounds, beliefs and/or circumstances would likely be uniquely beneficial.
The goal of this program would be to create 1-on-1 relationships between people who are matched together based on commonalities of their choosing. Given enough membership, such a program could match people based on any number of preferences using systems similar to dating services: gender, age, language, religious background, type of disease, predominant symptoms, etc. Video chatting and texting could allow these relationships to span the globe, and use of a phone- or web-based application could even allow for these connections to remain anonymous if desired.
The end product of such a program would be the development of relationships, the extent of which would be up to the users themselves. Perhaps a patient is looking for a partner in dying or a family member is looking for an outlet to share a positive or negative experience to someone who wants to listen. Ultimately, we could create a social network, in which people can share their experiences and bring death out of the shadows. 7/26/2016