Meridian Star


November 10, 2013

Suffering from chronic health conditions?

MERIDIAN — Two registered nurses from Greater Meridian Health Center recently conducted a seven-week community outreach class titled “Self Management for People with Chronic Health Conditions” at Meridian Activity Center.

    Supervised by Beverley Hearn and Deborah Graham, the once-a-week class was designed especially for persons with arthritis, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure or heart conditions. As I did not ask for advance reservations, I was not sure how many – if any – showed up. It was offered as a free class, which was a good sign...and a lunch at the end of the seven weeks.

    However, I was surprised on the day I sat in with the group to hear how responsive everyone was to the two nurses. They asked for examples to their questions and wrote them all on the board; added more of their own and then chose one or two specific answers to discuss further. One of their out-of-class exercises was to write down what they ate over a two-day period. One or two ladies read their list. “And what did you learn?” (I know what I would learn if I used this popular diet method; I eat far too many carbohydrates)

    We can learn a lot by looking at our own behavior. Then they reiterated what they had learned in class earlier: Eat 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day; Pay attention to portion size; Use smaller plate; Limit foods with more than 5 grams of fat per portion; Saturated fat is not good, trans fats are deadly, clog arteries. If the fat is solid at room temperature, it is not good. 200 calories a meal is best.

    They used a book titled “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions” for a text. “All fats contain twice the calories per teaspoon as protein or carbohydrate. Calories from fat add up quickly. For example, one teaspoon of sugar has about 20 calories, but one teaspoon of oil or solid fat has about 35 calories. When we eat more calories than we need the extra calories get stored as body fat, which leads to weight gain.”

    They next made a list on the blackboard of problems they have with their physician. Here are some of their answers: Too arrogant, bad attitude, too familiar, impatient, use technical words we don’t understand, the wait is too long, incorrect diagnosis, order too many tests, always in a hurry, does not explain test or medication, and the chart is often misplaced.

    Beverly then asked them to brainstorm and come up with ways to alleviate some of those problems. These are their responses:

       • To the doctor: “Please talk on my level.”

    • Write questions before meeting with the doctor.

    • Ask the doctor to write down instructions, specific addresses for lab

    • “Please sit down and look me in the face” (Don’t lean over me)

    • Repeat what you heard “Did you say for me to _____?”

    • Use “I” messages. (“When I have to wait a long time I feel frustrated and unimportant.”)

    • Ask your questions at the beginning.

    • Bring a friend or companion to make notes.

    There were seven meeting of this particular workshop so they covered a huge area of topics. Looking in the textbook, I noticed exercise with several pictures of particular positions, exercises for balance and strength, a chapter on intimacy, using your mind to manage symptoms. I would not call this a support group as we think of it in general, it is rather a way of supporting yourself and your chronic condition.

    We hope to have this class repeated in the new year. Call me if you are interested, (601) 485-1812.

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