Self-management: Facilitators Linda Wooster and Monica Auk discuss a recent workshop on chronic conditions with participants Gladys Horsley and Randy Kay.

Self-management: Facilitators Linda Wooster and Monica Auk discuss a recent workshop on chronic conditions with participants Gladys Horsley and Randy Kay.

Finding life in chronic conditions

Salmon Arm residents are benefiting from a world-renowned self-management program for people with health conditions.

Salmon Arm residents are benefiting from a world-renowned self-management program for people with chronic conditions.

A Ministry of Health, Patients as Partners initiative administered by the University of Victoria, Self-management BC is a free six-week workshop for adults with ongoing physical or mental health conditions.

Sitting in a comfortable lounge at Lakeside Manor Retirement Residence, residents Randy Kay and Gladys Horsley are enthusiastically in favour of the workshop they recently attended.

It dealt with chronic conditions and included participants from Lakeside Manor and the general community.

Kay says he joined because he had several conditions to address.

“The primary condition I was trying to get help on was weight loss, and it was covered very well by establishing an action plan each week,” he says, noting the process involved identifying a desired result, defining how it would be accomplished and determining a level of confidence about the outcome.

“Being a procrastinator of the first order and having to come back to report to the group,” he says, joining in the laughter when Horsley interjects, “It forced you to behave.”

Like Horsley, Kay was impressed with how the group brainstormed to find solutions to each other’s problems in a respectful way that gave everyone the opportunity to speak without interruption or ridicule.

Eighty-eight-year-old Horsley attended the workshop with her husband of more than 64 years and, like Kay, appreciated that whatever was said in the room remained there.

“It’s a good thing for people to get together and feel free to talk in a good way,” she says, noting the sessions gave participants a better understanding of others. “I would champion it.”

“I would jump back in too,” adds Kay, who put his praise in a letter to University of Victoria professor and Self-Management BC director Patrick McGowan.

“The bottom line: I learned a great deal about myself and how to make my life more comfortable. I would recommend this class to anyone,” he wrote. “The instructors for this course were excellent. They were friendly and very knowledgable.”

That is music to Linda Wooster’s ears.

A master trainer, she took the course nearly four years ago during “a low time” in her own life.

“I saw what an advantage it was in my life and I get excited seeing other people come alive after they’ve taken the course,” she says, noting that while many seniors attend the workshops, participants have mainly been in their 40s and 50s.

“The youngest we had (this time) was in his late 20s and he came every week from Sicamous. He has Parkinson’s and was discouraged at first, but he was confident by the end that he would be able to play his guitar again.”

While doctors do refer patients to the free self-management workshops, the program is open to everyone without referral.

Self-management programs were developed and evaluated at Stanford University and have been implemented in 26 countries.

The programs teach participants how to understand and manage their symptoms, make healthier eating choices, become more active, communicate effectively with healthcare providers, manage difficult emotions and set realistic goals.

Groups of between 10 to 16 people meet once a week for two-and-a-half hours in sessions that are facilitated by pairs of trained lay leaders, many of whom are living with chronic conditions themselves.

So far, only chronic conditions and pain self-management workshops have been held in Salmon Arm. Wooster would like to expand to other conditions such as arthritis.

“If we get the word out and 10 people are willing to lead the workshop, Linda can train them,” says Monica Auk, a master trainer who has recently moved to Salmon Arm from Alberta.

“I am excited this program is here and I can volunteer,” she says, pointing out participants receive written material, including the book Living a Healthy Life With Chronic Conditions. “I have seen the success of the program internationally.”

Two self-management pain workshops are scheduled for the end of April: Mondays from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the health unit at 851 16th St. NE, beginning April 28 and Wednesdays from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Canadian Mental Health Association at 433 Hudson Ave. NE, beginning April 30.

For more information and to register, or to become a volunteer leader, call 1-866-902-3767.