Through the programs we have seen remarkable results in our participants and have received amazing feedback about their experiences. Take a minute to get to know our Participant Champions through testimonials, stories, and news coverage.
Managing Chronic Diseases Article for Valley Patriot
REGIONAL – Sheri Boland, a participant in the Diabetes Self Management Program, suffers with type 2 diabetes, her blood sugar was too high and her weight put her at serious risk of losing her sight, having an amputation or even losing her life. At only 32, the Lowell woman had received her final warning from her doctor before having to choose among surgical interventions. Boland had tried many diets and lifestyle programs to make her health better, but “nothing worked,” she had told her health professionals. Then she heard about a Diabetes Self Management Program offered by the Healthy Living Center of Excellence, a collaborative venture of the Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and Hebrew SeniorLife. Boland’s first thought: “This won’t work either.” But she was desperate to make a change and decided to try the program. “I honestly thought the program would be the same, but it wasn’t. I felt an immediate connection with the facilitators and a comfort level with all the other participants,” Boland said. Sharing the same illness with the other participants motivated her and encouraged her to make changes in her lifestyle.
Boland saw dramatic results from participating in the diabetes program. She began to eat more nutritiously, increased her exercise and learned to create attainable goals and celebrate small successes each week. To her surprise, within a 6 month period, she lost 40 pounds and lowered her average blood sugar readings over a three month period from 14.4 to 6.4 (can be compared to a normal blood sugar reading is below 7). The programs, led by two leaders, are designed to promote confidence, improve physical activity, healthy eating and reduce falls, and become more empowered to manage the chronic conditions. The leaders follow a 6 –week manual to guide the participants which includes goal setting, planning for the future, education, brainstorming and group discussions. “Lots of people don’t want the programs to be over,” said Susan Poludniak, Healthy Living Program Manager and a Registered Dietitian. “They organize support groups to continue meeting together as a support group once the program is over”.
The Diabetes Self Management program is a spinoff of another Healthy Living Center of Excellence program called the Chronic Disease Self Management Program, which is designed to help patients cope with a variety of chronic diseases. The Chronic Disease Self Help Management program and the Diabetes Self Help Management program are six-week courses where participants spend two and a half hours, one day a week learning to deal with all aspects of their disease. Every session also provides 20 minutes for socializing and friendship building. Developed by Stanford University, the programs are administered not by medical personnel, but rather trained leaders who guide patients in an interactive format to understand the cope with stress, avoiding complications of the disease related to diet and medication and closely monitoring their condition. The diseases addressed include arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic back pain, chronic fatigue, COPD, fibromyalgia, heart disease, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s and strokes, among other conditions.
“We have seen the benefits of our workshops occur in thousands of participants, leaders and volunteers across the state. We are looking forward to the growth and future of the Healthy Living Center of Excellence” says Jennifer Raymond, Director of Evidence-based Programs of Hebrew SeniorLife.
Jennifer is referring to the growth that is expected with the recent funding received in September by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs for three years to expand evidenced based programs throughout Massachusetts.
The Healthy Living Center of Excellence is a major partner in this funding opportunity to try to address the growing need for health care consumers to have information and support to better manage their chronic conditions. To learn more about the Healthy Living Center of Excellence, please call Susan Poludniak at 978-946-1355.