Learn to manage chronic disease

Herald/CATRINA RAWSON - Chronic disease class instructors Gary Lee Bridges, left, and Norman Sisk meet Wednesday in Temple. Scott & White is expanding its free, six-week chronic disease self-management classes, starting sessions in Copperas Cove and Harker Heights in February. Classes currently meet in Temple and Belton.

By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

Temple resident Deborah Mouton was looking for a way to better manage her diabetes and asthma, so she signed up for a free, six-week course to learn self-management techniques.

"I took the class to know what to do to help myself," she said. "In the class, I learned you need a plan."

Each week, class participants wrote an action plan for what they wanted to achieve before the next class. Mouton said she focused mostly on exercise and, with the help of her doctor, was able to get off two of her prescription medications.

Now, she is sharing that knowledge as a volunteer lay leader, teaching the course that helped her regain her health.

"The whole time, you just enjoy the class," she said. "It's easy to want to teach this class."

Next month, the free classes are coming to Copperas Cove and Harker Heights to help people learn to self-manage chronic diseases. Right now, the classes are being offered in the Temple and Belton area.

Harker Heights and Copperas Cove will offer the six-week program based on training through Stanford University. The classes meet for 2½ hours once a week to share information on managing diseases and tips to stay healthy.

While the class in Harker Heights will look only at managing diabetes, the class in Copperas Cove will cover all chronic diseases.

Teachers, who are trained volunteers, said they have seen a variety of chronic diseases, including sleep apnea, depression, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis and restless leg syndrome.

"It doesn't matter what the illness is; they see the same type of symptoms," said Gary Lee Bridges, a lay leader. These symptoms often include some sort of pain.

Each class starts out with the leader sharing his or her illness; then students share what brought them to the class.

"It lets them know they're not alone in the disease that they suffer," said Rayetta Slaten, another lay leader. "Somebody has been through it and is empathetic to what they're going through."

One lesson of the course introduces the "self-management toolbox."

"These are management coping tools so the disease is not overbearing and doesn't take away from the life they want to lead," said Slaten.

There also are several brainstorming sessions where participants can share with each other what works for them.

"It's a really good way to get a lot of ideas out at one time," said Bridges.

Another lesson teaches participants to use visualization techniques to deal with bouts of pain.

"If you get pain, use your mind to think of something else," said Bridges. "It keeps you from dwelling on that pain. I picture myself playing a round of golf."

Lay leader Norman Sisk said he looks forward to expanding the class into new areas of the community.

"Everywhere we go we help the health climate," he said.

Angie McConnaughhay, Copperas Cove Senior Center coordinator, said she also looks forward to offering the class.

"I'm hoping that we can get a little bit more interest stirred up in the community, because they are beneficial to anyone who has a child that gets sick often or someone with a chronic condition that gets sick often. All people would greatly benefit," said McConnaughhay.

Scott & White Healthcare is able to offer the class free of charge, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Administration on Aging, said Theresa Castilla, program manager. The program also partners with the Scott & White Healthcare Plan and the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas.

"For people who have a condition, there's actual evidence that (self-management classes) have been able to reduce the stress about the condition and reduce the amount of times they'll go to the emergency room or go into the hospital," she said. "There has been some evidence that it does give positive results."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

If you go

The Chronic Disease Self-Management Class in Copperas Cove will be offered at two times and locations: from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, Feb. 2 through March 8, at the Copperas Cove Public Library, 501 S. Main St., and from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Copperas Cove Senior Center, 1012 North Drive. For more information or to register, contact Theresa Castilla at (254) 215-0451 or tcastilla@swmail.sw.org.

The Diabetes Self-Management Workshop in Harker Heights will be from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 15 through March 21, at the Harker Heights United Methodist Church, 208 W. Cardinal Lane. For more information or to sign up, call the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas at (254) 770-2330.

Registration is recommended for both classes, and participants get a free book.

What is chronic disease?

Chronic diseases are diseases of long duration and generally slow progression. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 63 percent of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

To learn more about different chronic diseases, go to http://www.who.int/topics/chronic_diseases/en/.

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