Seniors: Better choices, better health

Are you one of the many Albertans who have resolved to take ownership and control of your health this New Year? Decision-making is just the first step towards achieving your goal. Making better lifestyle choices along the way helps you remain on track. It requires not only motivation and commitment to stay focused on your goal, but also resources in the community to support you in your journey.

In the absence of appropriate community resources, your goal would most likely remain a dream. For example, assume you want to be more physically active this winter, and if there are no recreation centres and gyms in the community, your goal will remain unmet.

As we age we are likely to be diagnosed with one or more chronic conditions that would need lifelong management such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis etc. It has been estimated that 75% of Albertans over the age of 65 years are living with at least one chronic condition. Older adults with such chronic conditions need support, education and programs to enable them to live well with those conditions.

The Alberta Healthy Living Program (AHLP) has been set up to provide programs and services to those living with chronic conditions in Alberta. These services include information, education, techniques, and support to help improve your health and quality of life.

Under AHLP, Alberta Health Services has set up some programs in the north, central and south health zones. In addition, each health region has developed its own unique healthy living programs for the community. Group programs as well as individual programs are available to help you stay focused and achieve your health goals.

To enable you to increase your confidence and skills in managing a chronic condition, the Better Choices, Better health Self-Management workshops are being offered online and in-person to a small group of 10-16. These free and interactive workshops consist of six 2.5 hour sessions and admission is open to caregiver as well.

During these workshops you will learn about healthy eating, managing chronic pain and fatigue, physical activity, weight management, emotion management, breathing techniques, sleep techniques, and also develop skills around goal setting, problem-solving, decision-making, communication, action planning and how to work well with health providers.

What makes this program unique? While informing you about healthy lifestyle interventions, it also provides you with the skills that you need to develop an action plan, and stay committed until you achieve your goal.

A province-wide evaluation of the Better Choices, Better Health program for the period 2015-2018 showed that 96% of participants learned new health behaviours, and intended to make positive lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, dealing with physical symptoms, and being physically active. The participants also reported improved self-confidence and improved communication with healthcare providers.

You can either refer yourself and a friend to this program or send a referral to the Better Choices, Better Health program through your physician. You may call 1-877-314-6997 or visit http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/bcbh.asp for registering for these workshops.

Some of the other exciting programs available to you through your primary care network (PCN) are Health Basics – information on healthy lifestyles, Strong & Steady – to increase your strength and flexibility, Moving on with Persistent pain, Anxiety to Calm – to help you manage anxiety, and Sleep – to help improve sleep.

Other programs that might be helpful to you include Relationships in Motion, Happiness Basics, and Journey through Grief.

If you prefer individual programs, the Red Deer PCN offers an array of services including a pharmacist to help you manage multiple medications, a family nurse to assist you in managing your chronic conditions, recreation programs to help you explore activities, elder care assessment program for the 75+ age group, and a counselor for stress, grief, and relationship issues.

Now that you have made the decision to take control of your health, and you are aware of all the programs and services available in your community, nothing can stop you in your pursuit of health and a superior quality of life.

Padmaja Genesh, who holds a bachelor degree in medicine and surgery as well as a bachelor degree in Gerontology, has spent several years teaching and working with health care agencies. A past resident of Red Deer, and a past board member of Red Deer Golden Circle, she is now a Learning Specialist at the Alzheimer Society of Calgary. Please send your comments to padmajaganeshy@yahoo.ca

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