New program at Opeongo Seniors Centre to help chronically ill

BARRY’S BAY – A new living healthy program is trying to help people living with chronic conditions in Barry’s Bay.

Whether an individual is living with diabetes, arthritis, kidney or respiratory disease, chronic pain or depression, sessions through Champlain’s Living Healthy Program can help individuals to better manage pain and stressors, according to facilitators, Shirley Hill and Kathy Bloomquist.
The educational program is free and includes anywhere from eight to 16 participants over the course of six weeks.
Individuals’ directly experiencing chronic conditions, as well as their caregivers or family members, often find the sessions beneficial, the facilitators explained.
Some of the more common pain symptoms, which many experience, are stress, anxiety, difficult emotions, fatigue – and these issues are often ongoing, Hill said. At the living healthy sessions, attendees in groups brainstorm and interact with one another to help determine solutions and practices, which might help. Participants learn healthy eating and exercise skills, too, as well as stress management techniques. The program can help individuals learn how to better communicate with health care professionals about their specific needs, as well, if necessary.
“We don’t actually as facilitators tell people what to do,” Hill continued. “We consider ourselves a part of the group as well.”
Instead, the program takes more of an interactive approach. The program is constructed to be empowering, Bloomquist added.
“Often, people soon identify with someone else in the group and realize they’re not alone,” Hill said. “This is usually helpful for people.”
Facilitators help guide attendees to help each other to come up with solutions, as well as help individuals with goal setting, problem solving, and self-management.
At the core of the program, it’s about promoting self-management and self-independence, Hill added.
Through the interactive group sessions, problem solving and goal setting, members learn to live healthier lives and learn to gain more control, Hill continued. People become more independent and more comfortable being independent, she added.
According to the Living Healthy Champlain organization, chronic diseases are the most prominent health care problem in Canada. But with appropriate self-management of chronic conditions, a person can improve overall outcomes, like, help to reduce blood pressures, and glycemic levels, as well as, optimize quality of care and improve health services use.
What’s more, participants have the opportunity to build somewhat of a support network during their six sessions. They help each other with practice tools and their goal setting, talk over how things went week after week, people obviously form relationships, which realistically could grow well past the sessions, the duo explained.
Story continues in the April 17, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.