FULTON – The Oswego County Health Department joined with OCO Rural Health Network of Oswego County to present a six-week program for those managing chronic disease. The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program was developed by Stanford University Patient Education Research Center and promoted nationwide as an evidence-based program.
Last fall, it was unveiled at Fulton Mills Apartments, a retirement housing complex.
“This program promotes healthy living, good nutrition, self-care and improves the quality of life for participants,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. “A five-year study of the CDSMP found that people who participated in the program decreased the number of days they spent in the hospital, improved their health behaviors and generally upgraded their feeling of wellness.”
Diane Oldenburg of the Oswego County Health Department and Danielle Wert of the OCO Rural Health Network of Oswego County worked together to lead the group through the two-hour weekly sessions.
In each class, participants discussed nutrition, practiced visualization techniques and made action plans to achieve their goals.
“People with chronic, long-lasting conditions, regardless of the type, still have similar concerns and problems to manage,” said Oldenburg. “These include anxiety, communication with doctors, and medication and pain issues. People not only need to deal with their conditions, but also with the impact that they have on their lives. This program helps them do just that.”
Each week, participants set small goals and learn about self-management.
The focus of the program is to change how problems are managed, so they are no longer problems.
Said Oldenburg, “Participants are empowered by focusing on what they can do, rather than what they can’t do.”
According to Fulton Mills Resident Director Ann Casey, the group was formed after advance promotion in the building newsletter.
“The people in the group, including two participants over the age of 90, really got a lot out of the sessions,” said Casey. “They have talked about it and will continue to meet and support each other following the principles of the program.”
At the beginning of the program, many of the participants reported suffering from illness and enduring many hospital visits.
Each week, they met as a group to brainstorm solutions for each other’s problems and made action plans to achieve their goals.
The various objectives included: speaking up with their doctor, becoming more organized, improving their diet, and becoming more active.
They each had ‘homework,’ such as preparing for doctor visits, taking their medications properly and using the stairs instead of the elevator.
Their most important assignments; however, were to be honest with themselves and realistic about their goals, to have a positive attitude, and to think of how they can do something rather than why they can’t.
“This is the most rewarding program I’ve ever been involved in,” said Oldenburg. “I was very moved by the response of the people involved.”
The group met after completing the program and offered their feedback:
Mary Lou Brower said, “It was just what we needed as a community. We developed a bond because we’re all going through the same things. I got a lot out of it; learning to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. I found that I can do a lot more than I thought I could. If you change the way you think about things, you can achieve a lot more.”
Helen L. Allen added, “I really wanted to work on improving my doctor visits, so I started asking questions. I think I made his day and got all of my answers! My next goals are to become more active by walking more in my apartment and to improve my diet by cooking at home. I’ve also started taking up embroidery with the goal of making a tablecloth.”
“Through group, I realized that I needed to change my doctor and took that step,” said Donna L. Avery. “I now have a doctor that I have more faith in. I feel confident that he has my best interests at heart and takes better care of me.”
Marjorie Foil said that she was very sick before joining this program. “My goal was to get better; to find out what was wrong and fix it. I had to look at the big picture and realize that, just because I couldn’t do something today, doesn’t mean I never will.”
Elsie Tucce added, “Making up action plans are so important. They helped us stop procrastinating and achieve our goals.”
Joan Ellen Coon agreed, “I write a ‘to-do’ list and, if I don’t get everything done that day, I do things the next day without punishing myself.”
“That is one thing about this program,” said Nick Gamble. “We learned new tools to manage our emotions. It also helped me with my goal of walking to the mailbox and possibly going even further. It would be great to keep this group going.”
Cinda Shupe summarized, “I learned that it is up to me. I am responsible for myself and it is my responsibility to do the work and succeed. My goals were to get organized and talk to my doctor. I took a notebook with a list of questions and medications to my visit so that I was prepared to deal with the situation and I was very successful.”
These participants may want to consider becoming peer leaders for the program themselves.
According to the program development team at Stanford University Patient Education Research Center, lay people with chronic conditions can teach the class as effectively as a healthcare professional with the proper training and a detailed leadership manual.
“People who have gone through the class have a lot of valuable experience that they can share with others,” said Oldenburg. “It would be great to see this program take off; for doctors to refer it to their patients, and in schools, churches, senior nutrition sites and to other groups and organizations that feel their group could benefit from it.”
Oswego Hospital has become a partner in this program to make it available to more county residents.
Two new peer leaders from the hospital have been trained in the program’s new curriculum this year.
The success of the program is evidenced by the requests the department has received for more classes, including returning to the same locations.
The first class in Fulton was followed by one in Constantia. Since then, a second class was held in Constantia and a second group is now forming at Fulton Mills to begin classes at the end of September.
The health department also hopes to have classes in the Pulaski and Sandy Creek areas.
To find a workshop near you, visit the Center for Excellence in Aging and Community Wellness online at www.ceacw.org or call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.