Seniors, sickly learn to 'Live Well' despite challenges
Not one of the 11 people attending the Live Well workshop at the Westport Senior Center went "baaaaaaa" Monday. Each one did, however, act a little like a helpless lost sheep when describing difficulties arising from advanced age and/or chronic health, financial or emotional troubles.
"I need to sell my house, but my son is opposed," one woman moaned.
"I have to rent out a room, but my house is cluttered and I don't know how to get around that," a gentleman lamented.
"My husband is recovering from Lyme disease and wants to play tennis, but I am afraid to let him " one woman agonized.
"My plans to lose weight never get off the ground," one man complained.
The exchange of agonies continued among those sitting at the two workshop tables at the Live Well workshop, designed as a forum to help those with chronic conditions as well as their caregivers. The goal of Live Well is to teach self-help techniques so those with chronic conditions can better manage their ailments and look forward to living life as well as possible.
Many of the solutions came from participants who offered free advice to fellow attendees. Many of those in attendance, in fact, knew each other having attended earlier workshops in the series. Advice was offered easily and accepted freely, which is part of the philosophy behind the program.
Taught by specially trained leaders, some who have health conditions themselves, Live Well meets for six weekly sessions, covering a new topic each week and provides opportunities for interaction and group problem solving.
"Participants chiming in with self-help ideas is very much in the script for the Live Well workshops," according to Monica Wheeler, RN, the community health director at the Westport-Weston Health District, and trained leader of the Live Well program. "This is a new approach to managing chronic diseases."
A number of Live Well workshops are being held across Connecticut, financed by a $400,000 federal grant. The goal of the workshops is to teach self-help strategies to those suffering from such chronic conditions as high blood pressure, heart trouble, arthritis and diabetes.
Monday's session opened with a confession from each participant. During a prior session, each attendee had filled out an action plan. On the form, the participant listed areas they wanted to improve upon in the coming weeks and a list of potential actions for each day.
With goals including eating better, exercising more and many others related to fitness, each participant each participant gave himself a grade from 1 to 10 as to his performance. A few participants gave themselves a 7 or 8, but most self-graded in the 5-6 range.
At the end of Monday's session, new action plan forms for the coming week were passed out.
"This week I will focus on communication skills," Wheeler wrote. "I will ask for help. I'm very poor at asking for help. I am going to ask my husband to help in cleaning the bathrooms. I have to ask. That is the hard part for me."
In addition to sharing their grades, participants heard a list of problem-solving tips including:
1. Identify the problem.
2. List ideas.
3. Select one idea.
4. Assess the results.
5. Substitute another idea.
6. Utilize the resources.
7. Accept the problem may not be solvable at this time.
"Workshop leaders like myself are more like coaches," Wheeler said. "Interactive group discussion of problem solving is very much a part of the workshop experience. The answer to someone's questions is usually in the room."