Coastal Georgia residents are invited to attend a free six-week workshop on managing chronic conditions at the Coastal Regional Commission Area Agency on Aging. The workshop runs Friday, Jan. 13 through Friday, Feb. 17. It will be from 9:30 a.m.-noon at the Liberty Senior Center, 800 Tupelo Trail, in Hinesville.
The Living Well Coastal workshop series is designed to help area residents ages 18 and older with chronic health conditions improve their function; reduce pain, fatigue and anxiety; cope with medications; communicate more effectively with their physicians; and regain control of their lives. Caregivers also are encouraged to attend the workshops.
The Coastal Health District, which includes Hinesville and surrounding areas, reported that six out of the top 10 leading causes of death in the region involved chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancer, kidney and respiratory disease.
Additionally, arthritis is prevalent among the aging coastal population and causes significant pain and loss of mobility and independence. All of these problems are targeted by strategies taught in Living Well Coastal workshops.
Based on the program developed by the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Patient Education Research Center, the Living Well Coastal series helps participants make an action plan that addresses concerns and breaks down ultimate goals into smaller, more manageable steps.
By working in groups of 12-20 participants per class, trainers can help develop a support network for some of the common problems encountered by people who deal with different chronic conditions.
“We see people with problems like diabetes, arthritis and heart conditions in our workshops, for example,” wellness program manager Loreatha Jenkins said.
“Despite the details that separate those kinds of problems, there is a great deal of common ground,” she said. “The feelings of helplessness, depression and even some anger are often present. Our trainers are people who have chronic conditions themselves or are caregivers for someone with chronic conditions, and they know how it feels.
“It’s amazing to see how much that means to people, that they are not alone, that there is someone else out there who has traveled the same path and has found ways to make life better,” Jenkins added.
Trainer Amanda Perch said the staff works with participants to set small goals.
“Almost everyone is told by their doctor to exercise. A full-blown exercise regimen is too overwhelming, but setting aside 10 minutes a day is a great place to start,” she said.
“And from that beginning, there is improvement and encouragement to add a few more minutes at a time. We’ve had people in our classes who have lost 10 or more pounds over the course of the classes simply by gradually increasing the time they are physically active each day,” the trainer added. “And that’s just one issue. Making a plan is crucial to making a permanent change.”
Since the concept was launched in 1992, people who completed self-management workshops reported fewer doctor visits as well as hospitalizations.
According to AARP, if at least $500 per patient was saved by 10 percent of the nation’s estimated 133 million chronic disease patients enrolling in a program like Living Well Coastal, health-care cost savings could reach $6.65 billion in a year.
For information on the upcoming workshop in Hinesville or to register, call the Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-580-6860.