Aging is difficult enough as it is. But for an older adult dealing with a chronic health condition, life can become very challenging. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), nearly 92% of older adults have at least one chronic condition and 77% have at least two. Chronic conditions can make life feel unmanageable and force older adults to give up their independence too soon.

The traditional medical model of caring for people with chronic conditions, which focuses more on the illness than on the individual, is expensive and often ineffective. Addressing chronic conditions requires new approaches to delay deterioration, improve function and handle the problems that people confront daily in coping with the hand they’ve been dealt.

For nearly a decade, Stanford University and the NCOA have collaborated to make programs available that empower individuals with chronic conditions to manage their own care and improve their quality of life. Probably the best known and most highly regarded program is Living Well with Chronic Conditions. This low-cost program focuses on problems that are common to anyone dealing with chronic conditions such as pain management, difficult emotions, and communicating with healthcare providers and family.

Living Well with Chronic Conditions helps people, regardless of whether they are coping with diabetes, arthritis or lung disease, develop and use self-management strategies to improve their health status. Led by a pair of trained facilitators, participants build the skills they need to manage their health by sharing experiences and providing mutual support. And this aspect of the program may be the most important: the workshop can help an individual take control of how they are managing, and therefore how they are feeling, about their chronic condition.

Community Thread is excited to offer a Living Well with Chronic Conditions workshop, made possible by the generous support of the Wilder Foundation and Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging. Trained volunteer and staff leaders will guide participants through this six-week program proven to make people function and feel better. Each week, new topics will provide opportunities for interaction and group problem solving. Participants will learn to find better ways of dealing with pain and fatigue, discover easy ways to increase physical activity, learn about medication management, understand new treatment choices and basically “deal with the hand they’ve been dealt” instead of anger and depression.

The workshop will be offered six Mondays, starting May 2 through June 13 (with no class on Memorial Day) from noon to 2:30pm at Community Thread, 2300 Orleans Street West, Stillwater. The cost is $15 for six sessions and scholarships are available. Registration is required by April 15; contact Community Thread at 651-439-7434. If you or someone you know is dealing with a chronic condition, take your life back. And get the upper hand again.

By Sally Anderson