People with chronic conditions needed to share advice with other patients

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.

Last year, Ronald Jones decided to get some help maintaining his health.



What: Elder Options Living Health With Chronic Conditions diabetes self management workshop
Where: Tower Road Branch Library, 3020 SW 75th St.
When: 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. on June 16, 23 and 30, and July 7, 14 and 21.

What: Elder Options training for Living Health With Chronic Condition volunteer session leaders
Where: Gainesville Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC) 2153 Hawthorne Road
When: 8 a.m.-5p.m. July 14, 15, 21, and 22
What: Elder Options Living Health with Chronic Conditions chronic disease self management workshop
Where: Elder Options, 100 SW 75th St., Suite 301
When: 9:30 a.m.- 12 p.m. Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25, and Sept. 8 and 15. .

Jones, 62, was grappling with high blood pressure and was concerned that without some lifestyle changes he'd develop diabetes, a disease that runs in his family.

Instead of relying solely on the medical advice of a doctor, he wanted to learn from the experiences of others who'd faced similar health issues.

So, Jones signed up for a free program offered locally by Elder Options, a nonprofit agency that administers state and federally grant-funded initiatives and provides services to seniors in Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee, and Union counties.

In that Living Healthy With Chronic Conditions program, trained volunteers with longtime health issues such as arthritis, stroke, lung or heart disease or diabetes shared their advice and personal experiences on how to manage medical problems. Jones said the program drove home the need to eat healthy, exercise regularly and provided insight on the appropriate use of medications.

"It's one thing to hear it from a doctor but it's easier to swallow hearing it from people who have been through the same thing as myself," he said.

"It was a support group but it was also an inspirational group. It was let's encourage one another. If you want to do it, it can be done because there are other people who have gone through it."

After Jones went through the program, he decided to put his work experience as a consultant and facilitator to use by signing up as a volunteer session leader.

He has since run several sessions.

Now, Elder Options staff is looking for more people to follow his lead, either as program participants or volunteer leaders. At 1 p.m. Monday at the Tower Road Library, 3020 SW 75th St., a new six-week program on managing diabetes is scheduled to start.

The program is also seeking volunteer session leaders for a series of upcoming workshops on chronic disease self management.

Betty Flagg, an administrator with Elder Options Division of Community Outreach and Healthy Aging, said Monday's program on diabetes needs 10 participants in order to continue on through its six-week schedule.

That workshop on managing diabetes comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control released a report stating that more than 29 million people in the United States, about 9 percent of the country's population, have diabetes. That was an increase of 3 million from 2010. Another 86 million people have pre-diabetes, or elevated blood sugar levels that put them at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Earlier this week, a diabetes expert at the University of Florida described the report's conclusions as alarming.

"It's a crisis and this certainly is a call to action," said Dr. Desmond Schatz, the medical director of the UF Health Diabetes Institute and vice president of the American Diabetes Association. "This tells us that there is an ongoing crisis and we need to enhance our actions to treat and prevent this disease."

Elder Options began offering the federally funded chronic disease management program in 2010, Flagg said. It was initially funded through the Affordable Care Act and is now funded through the Department of Elder Affairs under the Older Americans Act, she said.

The program and its training for volunteer session leaders follow the model of the Stanford University School of Medicine Chronic Disease Self Management Program.

Flagg said the program is effective because it is interactive and includes small groups that share the same health conditions and concerns.

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