‘Living Well’ program benefits seniors with chronic illnesses

Posted Aug. 07, 2013, at 11:13 a.m.

If you are living with a chronic illness and are looking for solid and proven techniques to manage it, Eastern Area Agency on Aging has a class for you.

“Living Well was developed by Stanford University and is a six-session workshop that teaches practical and easy ways for staying well and self managing chronic health problems,” said Lisa Dunning, health program coordinator at EAAA. “People can take the class if they have a chronic health problem themselves, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, emphysema, depression, or other long-term health condition or a caregiver of someone who is coping with ongoing health issues can come.”

During the class, participants will learn how to set personal goals that are truly attainable, find support and ways to relax, manage stress and discover solutions to health problems, and make daily tasks easier, she added.

“We want to empower people to take charge of their health, to ask heathcare providers questions regarding their conditions, and to have a pro-active hand in their treatment which can make all the difference in their overall wellbeing.”

Here is what you can expect from these classes:

• The first session identifies common health problems and discusses the difference between acute and chronic conditions. You will also learn how to use your mind to manage symptoms by utilizing relaxation techniques.

Remember the old saying, “mind over matter?”  It is amazing how this works. When you are actually relaxed, your body responds to pain in a different way.

• Next time, you’ll learn how to deal with difficult emotions such as sadness, anger, and depression that often accompany chronic illness. This class will help you overcome these feelings through setting and achieving personal activity goals and using the natural release of endorphins through exercise. It really is a short distance from moving your body to lightening your mood.

• Class three focuses on the proper breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, pain and fatigue management, and individual endurance activities. We are not talking running road races here, but we could all use a little extra endurance.

“The elderly typically take shallow breaths,” said Dunning. “Deep breathing is very beneficial and cleansing breaths are important especially for those with lung disorders. Stress reduction is the key and these techniques show how to handle the stress of living with a chronic condition.”

• Class four encourages participants to communicate with confidence when talking with healthcare providers, caregivers and others. One of the most important things you can do for your health is to fully understand what’s happening, and the best way to do that is to ask questions – and keep asking until they’re answered.

So often seniors, who belong to what I have dubbed the “polite generation,” hate to feel like they are imposing or causing a problem. Consequently their needs may go unmet. Good nutrition and planning for your future health care are also covered.

• The next session discusses medication usage, how to make informed treatment decisions, and depression management.

• The last session teaches you how best to work with your health care professionals and how to navigate the healthcare system in these days of physician specialties and medical technology.

If you’d like to take this workshop or want more information, call Dunning at EAAA at 1-800-432-7812. We are compiling a list of people interested in taking the class and will schedule a one as soon as possible.

Or if you prefer, go to www.selfmanage.org/BetterHealth/Signup for more information or to sign up for the online version of this class.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free (800) 432-7812, e-mail info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org.

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