Gone are the days when patient care was simply a matter of following doctors' orders. Today, many seniors and their families play an increasingly important role in health-care decision-making. Robert Schreiber, M.D., Medical Director of Outpatient Primary Care Practice, Community-Based Programs, Innovation and Development at HSL, welcomes this development with open arms. He champions programs that encourage healthy lifestyles and provide patients with tools for managing their health, including chronic diseases.
"By learning what they can do themselves to improve or cope with a medical condition, individuals can take control of their destinies when it comes to their health," says Dr. Schreiber. "By setting goals, overcoming obstacles, and succeeding in meeting objectives, an individual in a way becomes the CEO of his or her care."
The incidence of chronic disease (a condition that lasts a year or more, limits what you can do, and may require ongoing treatment) increases in old age and can have a significant impact on quality of life. Seventy-five percent of adults over 65 have at least one, and the average 75-year-old has three chronic conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes.
Dr. Schreiber believes that seniors who suffer from chronic diseases can improve their conditions with the support of well-designed evidence-based programs (ones proven effective through scientific research). These programs:
- Promote seniors' central role in managing their own health
- Teach them how to set goals around such issues as nutrition, exercise and stress management
- Help them develop action plans to reach those goals
- Provide opportunities to practice new skills
- Encourage peer support
- Promote discussions about health promotion rather than illness and disability
Hebrew SeniorLife offers these types of programs in more than 60 communities throughout Massachusetts, helping nearly 1,800 seniors take charge of their own health care. The programs include:
- Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults - nutrition and healthy lifestyles
- A Matter of Balance - falls prevention
- Chronic Disease Self-management Program - practical skills for managing chronic illnesses
- Diabetes Self-management Program - techniques to maintain healthy blood sugar and deal with symptoms
- Fit For Your Life - safe, effective exercise
- The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program - community-based recreational exercise
Learn more about Hebrew SeniorLife's evidence-based programs.
From a physician's perspective, Dr. Schreiber could not be more pleased with the success of HSL's evidence-based programs. "These programs have been able to accomplish positive changes and outcomes in seniors that I could only hope would happen with the care I and other doctors provide," he says.
Managing your own health care does not mean that you'll never go to the doctor. Part of effective self-management is working closely with your health-care provider to ensure that you are getting the care you need when you need it. And that can only lead to a healthier, more productive life.