Manage Instead of Being Managed by Your Chronic Disease

As a result of taking a Chronic Disease Self-Management Program class, Chen, Ying Hui (right) and her husband Wu, Minye exercise regularly.

How many times have we heard our doctor, family, or friends who care about us say that the keys to a healthy life are exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress?

And yet, how many of us really put those words into actions?

At the Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) Family Caregiver Support Program, we understand that it is not an easy task for caregivers to take care of loved ones with chronic diseases. Our program strives to reduce the stress and burden of caregivers by providing various services such as support groups, exercise classes, health workshops, caregiver trainings, and individual consultations. At our new support center, we encourage caregivers and their loved ones to be physically and socially active in the community.

Last June and July, CISC collaborated with Senior Services to hold the very first Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) for Chinese-speaking caregivers and care receivers in King County. CDSMP not only helps participants to make a feasible plan, but also guides them on how to carry out their plans. The first class series was a great success with huge a demand of Chinese community members wanting to know how to manage their chronic diseases.

Participants shared their experiences and received support from each other. Later we received magnificent feedback. Participants reflected that the class was very practical, Chinese-speaking instructors Helen Wang and Julian Lee were well-trained, and they understood the culture, which made a big difference in the program's effectiveness.

"Doctors always remind my husband and me to exercise, eat healthy, and be happy, but we hardly could do what the doctors said," said participant Chen, Ying Hui. "After attending the workshop, I understand how planning plays an important role and leads to a healthy and happy life. For example, now we plan how many minutes we exercise and how many days per week. We also plan what kinds and how much fruit and vegetables to eat every day. I am surprised my husband is willing to eat more fruit now. He used to hide the fruit somewhere in the fridge whenever I asked him to eat it."

Chen, Ying Hui continued: "We are not used to exercise, especially my husband, who has foot neuralgia. Now, I exercise three days per week while he walks a few blocks around the house every day." Chen also reported that she had a fantastic result for her recent annual checkup—her doctor was happy about her lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and stable blood pressure.

Another caregiver, Chen, Kim Fong, reported that she loves how the workshop allowed her to share information and experiences with other participants. She is excited to tell people about the differences she experienced after she took the program. She said, "By planning and following the goals that I set for myself, I feel happier, less stressed, sleep better, and am more peaceful."

Due to the great success of the previous class, CISC looks forward to holding another CDSMP class in the near future to assist those caregivers and their loved ones to maintain their quality of lives. More information about the Chinese Information & Service Center, its Family Caregiver Support program, and the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (both Living Well with Chronic Conditions and Living Well with Chronic Conditions in Washington State).

—Chinese Information and Service Center Family Caregiver Support Center