ILWACO — Teaching people struggling with chronic illness how to feel better and live healthier is the focus of a free six-week education program that begins Jan. 19 at Ocean Beach Hospital and Medical Clinics.

     This in-depth workshop was developed by Stanford University to empower people suffering from chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease to pursue normal activities, according to Denise Ross, a registered nurse, who facilities the workshop.

     The program supplements clinical treatment and helps people develop skills to cope with chronic illnesses and lead a productive life, added Ross, a diabetes educator at Ocean Beach Hospital.  “It teaches you how to problem-solve and move toward a healthier lifestyle.  Everybody with a chronic disease should take advantage of this opportunity.”

     Along with the loss of physical conditioning and fatigue most chronic disease causes, many people suffer emotional distress like anger and depression, Ross added.  The workshop will address those issues and help individuals develop strategies and techniques to reduce the effects of chronic illnesses.  One benefit, she said, is that the course shows people how to create a personal action plan so they can achieve their goals and live healthier.

     “There are a lot of people living with chronic illness and pain, and this course is full of sound information about exercise, nutrition, healthy eating habits and handling medications,” said Ross.

     Nutrition is an important component of chronic disease management, particularly with diabetes, added Deanna Duret, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Ocean Beach Hospital.  In many instances, she said, simple adjustments in diet can vastly improve a person’s nutrition and quality of life.

     The workshop also teaches people how to discuss chronic illness with their healthcare provider — something that is often difficult for people, Ross said. 

     “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions:  Self Management of Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema and others,” is the course textbook for the workshop, which is team-taught by instructors who have been through the program themselves.  “That’s the real beauty of the program,” Ross said.  “Our instructors are people who have found the course to be so beneficial that they decide to take on the program and teach others how they can live a healthier life.”

     Course topics include techniques for dealing with pain, frustration, fatigue, isolation and depression.  It also covers strength, flexibility and endurance exercises, communication skills, meal planning and making informed treatment decisions.

     A three-year study revealed course participants demonstrated improvement in exercise, symptom management, communication with physicians, and reported better general health, less fatigue, less disability and fewer activity limitations.  The study also found participants had fewer outpatient visits and hospitalizations. 

     Ross said the hospital sponsors this workshop twice each year and always receives positive feedback and strong community support.

     The sessions will run from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the hospital conference rooms on Thursdays, Jan. 19, 26, Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23.  There is no charge for the workshop, but registration is required.

     For more information, or to register, contact Ross at 642-6308.


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