The first session of "It's All About You", a research based chronic disease self-management program, began at the United Methodist Church Wednesday with about a dozen people in attendance.
The program is a joint effort of the Beacon of HOPE and Lee Memorial Health System. It was developed by Dr. Kate Lorig of Stanford University for persons who have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD, asthma, depression, high blood pressure, lupus, arthritis, cancer and others.
Much of the material covered in the classes can be found in the book provided at the beginning of the session, "Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions," by Kate Lorig, DrPH. The National Council on Aging says this book is "An indispensable guide for people of all ages who are living with a chronic physical or mental health condition."
The speakers at the ‘It’s All About You” program discussed these problems caused by chronic condition.
Shelley Downing-McNew and Casey Weiner kicked off the session by welcoming everyone to the first session.
"This is a chronic disease management workshop and Casey and I are the facilitators for this six week class," Downing-McNew said. "Both Casey and I have a chronic disease and we believe in this program."
In Week 1, Downing-McNew addressed self-management and chronic health conditions; using your mind to manage symptoms; getting a good night's sleep; and making an action plan.
Self management is learning how to take care of your health condition, carry out normal activities and manage emotional changes caused by a chronic health condition.
Learning the skills necessary to deal with your illness, continue your normal life and deal with emotions is crucial to learning how to live with your illness.
Members of the group related their illnesses and the problems they endure due to their chronic condition. One attendee's migraines, caused by a chronic illness, have prohibited him from working, socializing and even driving. Another suffers from heart disease and is greatly affected by the medications used to treat the disease. Still another suffered several severe injuries causing chronic pain.
When someone has a chronic illness they frequently suffer not just symptoms of the illness but exhaustion, sadness and even anger.
"I would like everyone, one at a time, to tell us about your chronic illness and how it has affected your life," Weiner said.
One by one each member of the group spoke about their illness as Downing-McNew wrote down how the illness was effecting their daily lives. In a short time it became clear that there were several common effects: tiredness, inability to do normal activities, inability to work, weight gain, sadness, worry, frustration and sometimes anger.
The first method suggested to deal with chronic illness was to use your mind through "distraction." Because our minds have a difficult time focusing on more than one thing at a time you can lessen the intensity of symptoms by focusing on something else.
One suggestion was to count backwards from 100 in threes. Another was think of a person's name for every letter in the alphabet. One member present said she goes out in the yard and not only pulls weeds but counts them. Another said sometimes they would try watching a movie.
Another method to deal with chronic illness is called the "Body Scan." This is where you sit comfortably, close your eyes, and "scan" your body by concentrating on your breathing while focusing your thoughts first on your feet and work your way up your body. The goal is to bring relaxation to your overall body.
The final method suggested is "Positive Thinking." If you think negative thoughts you will have a negative outlook. For example, waking up in the morning and thinking, "I really don't want to get out of bed and go to work," starts your day negatively. By changing your thoughts you can change your outlook on your day and your life.
Getting a good nights sleep is also an important part of managing chronic illness. There were a few guideline suggested. First get a comfortable bed. Next warm your hands and feet. Then find a comfortable sleeping position. Elevate the head of the bed 4 to 6 inches. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature. Use a vaporizer if the air is dry.
Things to avoid before bed include: eating, alcohol, caffeine, smoking, diet pills and watching TV or using the computer.
The final step covered during the first session was making an action plan. This involves deciding what and how much you are going to do? When will you do this? And how often? Downing-McNew stressed how important it is to monitor your progress.
The next workshop takes place today, Oct. 9, from 1:30-4 p.m., at the United Methodist Church, 5701 Pine Island Road, N.W., Bokeelia.
The workshop subject is: Making an action plan; feedback and problem solving; dealing with difficult emotions; physical activity and exercise; preventing falls.
The following workshop subjects are:
Week 3: Using your mind to manage symptoms; making an action plan; feedback and problem solving; physical activity and exercise; making decisions; pain and fatigue management.
Week 4: Making an action plan; feedback and problem solving; better breathing; healthy eating; communication skills.
Week 5: Using your mind to manage symptoms; making an action plan; feedback and problem solving; healthy eating; medication usage; making informed treatment decisions; dealing with depression.
Week 6: Using your mind to manage symptoms; making an action plan; feedback and problem solving; working with your health care professional and organization; weight management; future plans.
"If you want to take charge of your health, then attending the 'It's All About You' workshop series is for you," said Joyce Hall, Community Health Program Coordinator. "The title of the workshop was chosen because it truly is 'all about you' and the choices 'you' make in relation to your health and wellness."
Those attending will meet people with the same or similar chronic health problems and learn how to deal with them. In a recent class, 89-year-old Alyce stated, "I learned a lot of people have had the same problems as I do and they have worked through them and so can I." Another class graduate, Tom, stated, "You remember that the first week I said I didn't think I needed to be here but I have learned so much and am now doing things I've been wanting to do for a long time using tools I have learned in this workshop".
Each person who attends the class will receive a reference book titled "Living a Healthy Life with a Chronic Disease" by Dr. Kate Lorig, et.al. If you are interested in attending this exciting and free workshop, call 239-424-3121 for more information and to register for the program.
The workshop takes place every Wednesday from 1:30-4 p.m.