Empowering People to Self-Manage Chronic Health Conditions

The National Council on Aging tells us that every day, millions of people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, hypertension and COPD, to mention some of the most common diseases; struggle to manage a variety of symptoms, from fatigue and pain to anxiety and depression.  91% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and 73% have at least two.  The traditional medical model of caring for people with chronic conditions, which focuses more on the illness than on the patient, is expensive and often ineffective.  As a matter of fact, people living with chronic conditions only spend about 1% of their time interacting with health professionals.   What happens during the rest of their time?

The good news is that the National Council on Aging and Stanford University have collaborated for nearly a decade to distribute proven, evidence based programs that empower individuals with chronic conditions to manage their own care and improve their quality of life.  One of the best known and most respected of these programs is the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP).  CDSMP is a low-cost, evidence based disease prevention model that utilizes state-of-the art techniques to help those with chronic diseases to manage their conditions, improve their health status, and reduce their need for more costly medical care.  In Virginia, we call this program, You Can! Live Well Virginia! Chronic Disease Self-Management Program.  The program consists of a series of workshops that are conducted once a week for six weeks in community settings.  Workshop participants develop the skills and coping strategies they need to manage their symptoms through a group process that includes action planning, interactive learning, behavior modeling, problem solving, decision-making and most important, social support, for change.

According to published research, people with chronic health conditions, who have participated in the CDSMP, have shown measurable and significant improvements not only in their overall health, but also in the quality of their life.  They report improvement in health behaviors such as food choices and exercise; cognitive symptom management; communication with health care providers; ability to participate in their own health care and an overall improvement in health status as it relates to fatigue, shortness of breath, pain, social activity limitation, illness intrusiveness, depression and health distress. Studies have indicated fewer emergency room visits, in patient visits, outpatient visits, fewer hospitalizations and an overall health care cost saving of approximately $590 per participant.

The LOA offers this outstanding program in the Roanoke, Botetourt, Craig and Allegheny region.  We offer free, community based workshops to anyone with a chronic health condition, who is interested in learning to self-manage their symptoms.  We partner with Community based health care providers, Continuing Care facilities, Churches, Community groups and any other interested groups or organizations that have at least 12 people who are interested in participating in a workshop.

For more information regarding this program and/ or to become a partner or participant, please contact:  540-345-0451.  You can follow this link to the National Council on Aging website for more in depth coverage of this topic: www.NCOA.org