Contact: Thomas Hottman
Eight community organizations have come together to offer skill building workshops for people with chronic health issues.
The Living Well with Chronic Conditions workshop is the result of a collaboration between the Area Agency on Aging Klamath and Lake Counties Council on Aging, Oregon State University Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center, the Klamath Basin Senior Center, Sky Lakes Care Management, Klamath County Public Health, Klamath Tribal Health, the Department of Human Services Aging and People with Disabilities, and Cascade Health Alliance.
Living Well is a six-week workshop, developed by Stanford University, that provides tools for living a healthy life with chronic health conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, asthma and heart disease.
Volunteer leaders started training last week for the chronic disease self-management program.
On the first day of training, senior center director Marc Kane noted that the program aligns well with the goals of the Blue Zones Project, the community health transformation initiative which will begin in Klamath Falls later this year. The goal for both programs, Kane said, is to "nudge people into a healthier lifestyle."
After the volunteer leaders complete training, they will teach the workshops in pairs, likely starting in September and October, Kane said.
Participants will learn strategies to help them manage their medical conditions, set achievable goals, make decisions, problem solve, manage stress and work more effectively with their healthcare team.
About 20 people attended the first training for instructors last week, including people from Lakeview, Christmas Valley and Klamath Falls, Kane said.
The training was led by Living Well master trainers Kim Curley and Brenda Johnson. Johnson is also the coordinator for the Central Oregon Living Well program, based in Bend.
One important aspect of the Living Well program, both women said, is that it is taught by people who have chronic conditions themselves.
"We know what it's like," Curley said, adding that she has chronic arthritis. "I'm just like them."
The Stanford curriculum teaches people management skills for their day-to-day lives, Curley explained. Participants can create an action plan, improve their eating, communication skills, physical activity and achieve goals, she said.
For the action plan, participants identify something they want to do that could be achievable in a week, or could be a bigger goal, Curley said. For example, if your overall goal is to lose weight, your weekly goal could be to switch from eating Twinkies to eating an orange instead, she said.
It's also a holistic program, Johnson added. The workshops not only address physical improvements, but also mental issues, such as the stress or depression that can come along with managing chronic diseases as well.
Everyone has their ups and downs and their good and bad days, but they still have the opportunity to have control over their days, Johnson said.
"We hope to give people the tools to make those daily choices that are healthy choices," she said.
Participants also get great support from others in the group, which helps them realize they are not alone in coping with a chronic health issue, Curley said.
There is lots of clapping from the group when one participant meets their goals, she said.
"That's something they haven't had in a long time, maybe not ever," Curley said.
In many cases, Curley and Johnson, as well as other workshop leaders, have seen an almost immediate change in attitude from participants. Right away they start feeling better, and make progress over the course of the workshop, Curley said.
The Living Well workshops are not just for seniors with chronic health issues, but for all adults, and for caregivers as well, Johnson said.
The classes will be scheduled after leaders complete training, Kane said, but full details still need to be planned. He hopes each participating organization will host a workshop and recruit participants.
For more information about the Living Well program in Oregon, visit healthoregon.org/livingwell.