Learning to live better with chronic disease

Summer reporter
Stephanie Hagenaars

The Fort Frances Family Health Team and the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association have partnered for a six-week program focused on helping those who live with a chronic disease to live well.
The free weekly workshops began May 22 and run until June 26.
Rylee Blasky is the dietitian lead with the FHT but she also is a trained facilitator through the Northwest Local Health Integration Network and so is heading the workshop.
“[The] workshop is aimed to empower people to live well while dealing with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other issues,” Blasky explained.
According to the LHIN’s website at www.healthychange.ca, the goal of the workshop is to “keep people healthier and living independently in their own homes longer” as about “half of Canadians are living with a chronic health condition.”
The registered participants meet every Tuesday to socialize, as well as set “action plans” and goals.
“It’s really nice because the group gets to hear what the goals are of that individual, and then help them to actually use their goals every week and check-in,” said Blasky.
“If they weren’t able to achieve their goals, then we kind of all brainstorm together as a group and help to come up with ideas on what they can try.”
One of the weekly goals was based around physical health and activity.
The goal requirements, added Blasky, are that they need to be specific, action focused and include details on when and how the goal will be completed, such as walking for 10 minutes, three or four times per week, for example.
Some other skills learned during the workshop include symptom management, creating an action plan, healthy eating, using medication, weight management, and ways to deal with depression.
Gerri Yerxa, executive director of the FHT, said this is the only workshop offered in the area at the moment.
But she noted it has been well-received and the FHT is hoping to offer another one within the year.
In addition, Yerxa has heard feedback from Blasky and Amanda Meeks, who is assisting with the program, and “they’ve expressed that people are very excited and very interested.”
“They’re open to supporting one another in the group, which is a really positive step when you’re moving forward in terms of self-management of your health,” Yerxa said.
Anyone interested in more information about future workshops can visit www.healthychange.ca or call the FHT at 274-7741 ext. 1.