AGEWISE: Live Well, Virginia!  

By Bonnie Vermillion

In the United States, approximately 80% of older adults have one chronic condition and nearly 70% of Medicare beneficiaries have two or more chronic conditions.  According to the CDC, about 95% of health care costs for older Americans can be attributed to chronic disease.  There is an evidence-based self-management  program that was developed at Stanford University that has been found to improve communication with healthcare team, improve medication compliance, reduce symptoms of depression, decrease fatigue/improve sleep, improve quality of life, and reduce emergency room visits.  Agencies on Aging deliver these workshops that fall under the Chronic Disease Self-Management Education (CDSME) umbrella to diverse audiences in Virginia.  These workshops are two and one-half hours per week for six consecutive weeks.  The workshops are led by two trained volunteers who each have at least one chronic condition and are not necessarily health care professionals.  The curriculum that addresses common conditions of any chronic disease is the “Chronic Disease Self-Management Program” (CDSMP) or in Virginia called “Live Well, Virginia”.

The free workshops are very interactive and provide many opportunities for contributions by participants. Participants’ sharing of their information is completely voluntary.  Three key activities are brainstorming, action planning and problem solving.  During brainstorming, a question is posed to the group to which participants “shout out” responses.  Examples of brainstorming questions include “What are some of the way to get a good night’s sleep?” or “What are some ways to deal with difficult emotions?”  Action Planning is a weekly activity that demonstrates how most goals can be reduced to small actions that can be successfully completed within a week.  For example, you may not be able to walk 5 miles the first time, but you maybe can successfully plan and accomplish walking an extra 10 minutes a day on 3 days of the first week. Problem-solving offers a way to address challenges that arise, through a structured process that involves clearly identifying the problem, then listing and choosing from possible solutions.  These activities help build self-management skills, important since 99% of the time an individual is self-managing their chronic disease symptoms and are not in the presence of a healthcare provider.

The “Live Well, Virginia” workshops do not provide medical advice to any of the participants.  However, over the course of the six weeks, many self-management topics are covered.  These topics include working with health care professional, dealing with depression, making informed treatment decisions, medication usage, communication skills, healthy eating, better breathing techniques, pain and fatigue management, preventing falls, making decisions, physical activity, dealing with difficult emotions, problem-solving, making an action plan, getting a good night’s slip, and using your mind to manage symptoms.

The current six week “Live Well, Virginia!” Workshop began January 15, 2018 at 1pm at Reformation Lutheran Church, 601 Madison Road in Culpeper. It will continue each Monday for 6 weeks until February 19th. The next series will be held at the Culpeper Library beginning April 4, 2018. These free workshops are coordinated by Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services. For more information, please contact bonnired@comcast.net or 540-547-4824.

Bonnie Vermillion is the CDSME Regional Coordinator.