Post written by Dr. Brad Hiner
Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Dystonia and even Essential Tremor can take a devastating toll on the quality of an individual’s life. As a physician, I can assess, diagnose, prescribe and make other recommendations such as developing an exercise program. Once, twice, three or even four times a year, I may see a patient in clinic. I listen, assess, change the medication regimen and make other recommendations, but my intervention is a small piece in the care of a person with a chronic illness. In fact, the standard of care for chronic conditions is “self-management.”
Over a year ago, Froedtert began offering the 6 week course, Living Well with Chronic Conditions
, developed at Stanford University some 15 years ago. It is now offered all over the world. Many of my patients have participated in the course, and I have seen a difference in their attitude and in their relationships with me. Here are a few of the differences:
- My patients come to their appointments more prepared, more engaged and more desirous of being a partner in their care.
- They understand that to make the best use of our time together, letting me know “what is different for better or worse since your last appointment,“ is the best way for me to begin my assessment.
- They understand that they can show me a list of 15 concerns, which I will study to see if a dangerous symptom jumps out at me; but, realistically, we can only address their top two or three concerns.
- If I begin to “close” the visit and they haven’t understood something, they are empowered to ask me to go over it again.
- My patients understand that while I am on the alert for depression and anxiety issues, many of the psycho/social problems they might have are better served by our Program Coordinator who is available to them without time constraints or cost.
- They have come to understand that education and support are ongoing through our team, and they can attend a new patient orientation, support groups, community education talks, symposia, community exercise programs, therapy sessions and more.
- Our nurses are well-equipped to answer medication questions and to triage patient concerns.
- I am not the only contact that is available to help, and sometimes, I’m not the best contact for certain types of help.
My patients are embracing the idea of using a variety of “tools” to “break the symptom cycle.” That’s "Living Well" talk, but it’s very effective. When a person has pain, it can lead to fatigue, which can lead to difficult emotions like frustration, which can lead to isolation, which can lead to depression. You get it. At any point in this cycle, a tool such as distraction, stretching, or deep breathing, can really break the cycle. Having an entire toolbox of these strategies and techniques is what "Living Well" teaches.
Here are a few things my patients have said: ‘“'Living Well with Chronic Conditions' helped me in so many ways. It helped me get out of the house and socialize. I started making commitments to myself. I started exercising…”
“This class opens doors for people with chronic conditions helping them to learn coping skills with their condition, discussing avenues of treatment, exercise, eating and communication with family and doctor, providing a more positive approach that can be taken toward their chronic condition.”
“This class supports the acquisition of self-empowering tools which allows a person to proceed in their healing an coping skills.”
Learn more about the "Living Well With Chronic Conditions
" classes available through Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin.
Learn more about these classes offered around the state
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