Taking control, moving toward freedom

Taking control, moving toward freedom

MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors, is coordinated by Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and brings together leaders from Greater MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency has an opportunity to address a critical eldercare issue. This month’s column on MetroWest CARES is presented by Federation.

This month we celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom. We commemorate the Exodus from Egypt and the beginning of the Israelites’ path to self-determination. At our seders, many of us discussed the concepts of freedom versus bondage: our ability to create our futures versus forces that prevent us from reaching our full potential. Modern commentators note that while we are technically free, there are many forces, from poor self-esteem to peer pressure, that continue to enslave us. For many, barriers to true freedom are self-imposed. For others, physical and emotional factors prohibit us from living our lives to the fullest. Seniors, in particular, can relate to this second category of barriers.

Four out of every five older adults have a chronic health problem such as heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes. Coping with these health concerns on an ongoing basis can be overwhelming and can often lead to depression or anxiety. It is challenging to deal with constant pain, changing medication regimens, and countless doctor appointments. It is difficult for individuals with chronic conditions to plan for the future when they do not know whether they can expect a “good day” or a “bad day.” To be successful, it is imperative for individuals facing these challenges to be proactive in managing their symptoms and their lives so that they can continue to live freely, participating in the activities that they enjoy.

Participation in Take Control of Your Health, a program designed for adults living with long-term health conditions and/or their caregivers, is one way for the community’s older adults to move toward a sense of freedom. Developed by Stanford University, the program helps participants manage symptoms, set weekly goals, develop healthy eating and exercise habits, and communicate effectively with doctors and health-care teams. Workshops also explore mechanisms to deal with fear, anger, and frustration, emotions often associated with chronic conditions. The class is particularly beneficial for those who have stopped going out with friends or participating in activities they once enjoyed.

Take Control of Your Health is an evidence-based program, which means those who participate and follow the curriculum will experience positive gains. Improvements in physical activity, stamina, and pain control; better communication with health-care providers; and reduced doctor and hospital visits are all attainable goals. Classes are taught by trained peer leaders, many of whom suffer from chronic conditions themselves. Peer leaders and participants alike remark on how much fun the workshops are and how participating gives them opportunities to socialize and meet new people. Past participants say they feel better after completing the class and report an overall improvement in their quality of life. Participants feel a sense of hopefulness and newfound independence, like our ancestors as they left Egypt and began their journey to freedom.

Families and caregivers needing answers to broader eldercare questions and help with community resources can contact Elderlink — a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families — at 973-765-9050 or elderlink@jfsmetrowest.org. Visit Elderlink at Elderlinkmetrowest.org.


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