OCEAN PINES – There comes a point for people who have chronic illnesses where, in addition to ensuring they undergo the proper treatments, they desire to learn how to continue to function in spite of the difficulties their condition presents. Although there are physical and occupational programs people undergo, making sure to stay an active participant in both treatment and life is something that might take a little bit of extra willpower and understanding.
In the interest of providing additional resources to people with chronic conditions that detract from their lifestyle Atlantic General Hospital provides a free class called the Living Well Workshop aimed at teaching people to do as much as they can on their own.
AGH community education manager, Dawn Denton, R.N. and her staff have been running the six-week course regularly. What’s most interesting about the course is that no matter a person’s ailment, there are enough commonalities in the attitude it takes to incorporate it into one’s life that not only do the conditions not come into play, they’re not really addressed.
“In the course people learn how to improve their life based on their limitations,” Denton said. “Everybody sets their own goals.”
The course is designed for literally anyone. In fact Denton joked that if someone just showed up, she could find a chronic ailment. From general joint and back pain to diabetes and other diseases for which people must be under constant treatment, the idea is to continue to get the most out of your life given your medical circumstances.
The course was developed and tested at Stamford University until there were measurable improvements observed. It’s now used all over the country to aid those who feel they aren’t making the kind of life or medical progress they’re capable of.
For example, one part of the course deals with how to participate in your treatment and how to discuss your treatment options with your medical care provider. Another section deals with the self-diagnosis of a barrier a person has come up against so they can better solve it or at least direct the problem to someone who’s able.
If a person happens to be suffering from fatigue it could be anything from a particularly stressful time at work to diet to medication side effects. Learning how to truly consider where the trouble originates is the key to finding the correct course of action, whether it be finding the right medical professional to address the problem to recognizing it as a passing phase.
Perhaps the biggest part of the class, however, is action planning. Each week participants set goals to accomplish before the following class and then report on them. Whether a person succeeds or not is less critical than that they get a better understanding of their ability to plan within whatever limitations they happen to have. The satisfaction that comes from taking control of a situation is a key psychological tool to preventing feelings of helplessness or despair that can come from a more random approach.
“No matter your limitations, there is always a choice,” Denton said. “Even deciding to do something or nothing is a choice.”
Learning to embrace the choice to do something can be the first step toward a life of which a chronic ailment is a part but by no means the defining term. Being able to focus on the solution rather than the problem is the first step.
For more information or to sign up for the current class, which meets 9:30 a.m.-noon Fridays at the Ocean Pines Library call 410-641-9268.