Health Care

Workshop addresses ways to deal with disease

Gloria Hamilton has struggled with depression since her mother died six years ago.

But the Lady's Island resident said she has found a great deal of encouragement from a workshop she's been attending at the Wardle Family YMCA in Port Royal.

The six-week "Better Choices, Better Health" workshop is designed for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and depression.

Co-sponsored by the Lowcountry Council of Governments and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Region 8, the program aims to help people manage their chronic conditions and be active participants in their health care, said Claire Glasson, program coordinator for the council.

"Chronic conditions are usually not curable," Glasson said. "They're something that can be managed, but it takes some knowledge and some information to be able to know how best to manage."

A member of the YMCA, Hamilton saw a flier for the free workshop and thought it would be a good opportunity to learn to deal with her depression.

"I'm so encouraged by this class," Hamilton said. "The leaders were excellent because they (were) personal and compassionate. ... I'm sure I'm going to be very successful in my goals."

Glasson said the YMCA of Beaufort County is just one of many organizations to offer the workshop around the Lowcountry. In addition to the classes at the YMCA in Port Royal, "Better Choices, Better Health" is being offered at St. Helena Senior Center. It has also been held at the Bluffton/Hilton Head Senior Center, Burton Wells Senior Center and at several churches throughout the area.

Glasson said the program, which was developed by Stanford Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente, has been proven effective in helping people cope with chronic conditions.

Participants meet once a week for six weeks. They spend about two and a half hours each week learning about nutrition, exercise, positive thinking and the mind/body connection. They do some guided imagery exercises. They learn how to talk to doctors and family members about their needs, and they discuss end-of-life issues. Each workshop is led by two volunteer trained facilitators.

Glasson said she likes that the course not only teaches participants about nutrition and exercise but also teaches them important life skills, such as problem solving.

Every week participants make an action plan they will follow over the next week. An action plan can be something like committing to walk three times a week or eating smaller portion sizes. At the next session, they can share with others what their action plans were and whether they achieved them. If they weren't able to follow their plans, they discuss how they can do things differently the next time.

"Besides learning the information, they're also gaining skills that they can really transfer to a lot of areas of their lives," Glasson said. "We want them to be able to take the skills as well as the knowledge away and continue using that in their lives as they go forward."