Care Connection

WARRENSBURG — Care Connection for Aging Services seeks a volunteer leader for its “Living a Healthy Life” class.

“Living a Healthy Life is for people who have challenges with a chronic illness or condition, such as high blood pressure, back pain, diabetes, or heart disease, and also for individuals who are helping loved ones with any chronic issue,” Rona McNally, Care Connection’s director of Special Projects, said.

The four-day Living a Healthy Life leader training will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 20, 21, 27 and 28 at the Warrensburg Senior Center, 445 E. Gay.

Potential leaders must attend all four sessions, which are free to the participants, and Care Connection will reimburse travel expenses.

To register, call 1-800-748-7826 or email sgilkeson@goaging.org.

“We are looking for leaders from throughout our 13 counties who have a heart for helping others,” McNally said, “someone with a desire to help people identify ways to manage their health challenges in order to maintain and/or improve their quality of life.”

Care Connection information states an ideal volunteer leader would be someone living with a chronic condition or who cares for a family member or close friend with a condition.

Helpful skills are the ability to connect with people, a sense of humor, excellent communication skills and a comfort level with speaking in front of small groups.

During the training, leaders will “practice teach” so that they are comfortable with the program before they lead it.

Once they finish the training, leaders are asked to co-teach one six-week workshop within a year.

New volunteer leaders will be paired with a seasoned leader for their first sessions.

Stacey Gilkeson, Care Connection coordinator of Supportive Services, said she finds co-leading the classes rewarding.

“When you are leader, you can watch people develop relationships, some of which will continue after the class. We know we are helping people live better lives,” Gilkeson said.

The Living a Healthy Life curriculum uses proven practices based on a series of studies conducted at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Topics include nutrition, making healthy choices, exercise, coping techniques to deal with frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation; medication management, communication with family, friends and health professionals and the evaluation of new treatments.

While retired teachers and health care professionals would be welcomed volunteers, the course also relies on lay leaders who will receive extensive training and support materials such as a textbook, journal and recipe book.

The small group workshops are highly interactive, focusing on building skills and sharing experiences with each other.

Leaders guide discussions so that participants make weekly action plans, share experiences and help each other solve problems they encounter in creating and carrying out their self-management program.

When she is leading a class, Gilkeson said she finds herself living a healthier lifestyle as well.

“We have action plans that we have people complete and as a leader, I do them, too, and I stick to them because I know I have to be accountable, she said.

“It helps identify ways of handling the challenges of day-to-day life and setting goals for improvement,” McNally said. “It’s personalized. You are not told what you need to do. These situations don’t involve a one-size-fits-all approach, so the workshops involve a process of identification of the methods that will work for you – healthy lifestyle choices and daily habits.”

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