A LIVING Well Programme has been introduced in Co Clare to help people with chronic long-term illnesses to improve their quality of life.
Some 20 programmes will be rolled out to 300 people across the Midwest this year.
According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the number of people aged 50 and over is projected to rise by 33 per cent in Ireland between 2019 and 2030; which will lead to a corresponding rise in people living with chronic conditions.
With this projected increase, the HSE Midwest has begun delivering self-management programme to enable people to develop the skills necessary to manage their disease on a daily basis.
A long-term condition can typically include asthma, COPD diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Parkinsons, and chronic pain, for example. “Anybody with a chronic condition can come,” notes Philip Hennessey, the HSE’s Living Well Coordinator for the Midwest.
The six-week Living Well programme was introduced to the Midwest last year in conjunction with its nationwide rollout, which was a result of independent Slaintecare / Trinity College national research study which found the programme had a number of benefits to people living with chronic illness; it was proven that GP attendances were down by 35 per cent among participants; levels of anxiety and depression were down; there was a decrease impact on social life and employment life; there was an increase in perceived quality of life, and increase in exercise and aerobic activity; an increase in confidence to self-manage conditions; and an increased awareness of other supports within the community through signposting.
“The programme came out of Stanford University in the USA in the early 90s,” says Philip, who along with Liz Cox is one of the programme facilitators. “It was put together by top healthcare professionals in the US, and it has been evaluated and changed to keep up with current best practices. It’s done all over the world. The HSE has bought a licence to run it here in Ireland”.
The first programme was run in March 2022 online however currently all programmes are being run face-to-face with groups of 15 attendees, who learn to equip themselves with tools of self-management which can include setting goals, implementing action plans, healthy eating, managing medication, increased physical activity, improving their sleep, and being emotionally prepared for lifestyle changes in their daily lives.
“We ask people to do an action plan every week and they report back the following week – that’s what takes the behaviour home. It can be activity based, emotional based, diet based, it can be anything,” explains Philip. “The three key skills we talk about are action plans, problem solving and decision making. The programme is over 6 weeks, 2.5 hours per week, we also provide people with a 400-page reference book called Living A Life with Chronic Conditions which has sold over 2m copies, and they can use that during or after the programme.”
Philip adds that a key benefit of the programme is the peer support. “People really enjoy and benefit from meeting others and sharing experiences of what life is like for them living with a condition. There is a lot of wisdom in the room and people really relax into the programme as the weeks go along and you can see a bond forming in the group.”
The Living Well Programme currently has an 87 per cent completion rate in the Midwest, with Philip adding that the group bond often continues beyond the programme with “a lot of people swap numbers”.
Upcoming programmes include Shannon on September 14 and Ennis on November 1. Anybody living with a chronic condition aged over 18 is welcome.
To get in contact or to find out more, visit HSE.ie.