Rita attended a Better Choices, Better Health workshop after being referred by her healthcare insurer. Eighteen months on from the class, we caught up with her to find out how she’s doing now.
“I’ve been diagnosed with major depression – that’s since I was a youngster – hypertension, COPD (although they’re now saying I don’t have that, but we’ll see) and just before the workshop started I had a knee replacement. I was homebound for the most part – not a good thing for someone who’s depressive, but active – so when I heard about the workshop I was excited.
My mother passed away last year at 96. I started thinking about things pertaining to her health, and that made me realize that I was totally unequipped for aging myself. The workshop felt like the perfect opportunity for me to get some concrete information, so I could make some emotional adjustments to the reality of aging.
My Mom lived with my brother, but I was also a caregiver. She was in relatively good health until right at the end, but we had to be careful about her food. About two months before she passed she entered into dementia, which got real bad about a month before she passed. We had to put her in a facility because we just couldn’t care for her in the last few weeks.
It was after that, I wanted to be able to adjust emotionally to the reality of aging – understand how to take care for myself. It’s about a year and a half since I went to the workshop. Some of the things that have changed are that I pay more attention to my eating, and to exercise, and to looking for things that could make me fall. Even things like my bedspread! I’ve made changes to that to make sure that it isn’t something me or my husband can fall on. We’ve got grab bars in the bathroom now, for getting out of the tub. I’ve put non-slip things in the bottom of the bathtub.
But also, in a strange way, it’s helped me be more conscious of my emotions – I’m meditating now. The workshop led me to that and brought me to the point where I’m not on my anti-depressants any more. It was a catalyst for so many different things for me. I meditate every day. Sometimes it’s difficult if I don’t do it first thing in the morning, but I’ve learned to use it as a tool if I find myself going downhill emotionally. I have certain CDs I listen to, meditations that I do. It just turns my mood right around.
I also drink smoothies every day, with tons of good stuff. That’s the easiest way for me to get the nutrition, without trying to eat it all. I’ve gotten off of a lot of my snacky foods. I still have an issue with eating breakfast, but I am getting better about it. I’m not sure why I have a problem with breakfast – I’ve been a picky eater most of my life, but also I raised five kids, so by the time I got them out the door and put my feet on the floor, I didn’t think about eating until 2-3 o’clock in the afternoon. I’ve gotten better about at least grabbing a piece of fruit, just something to get me going.
The class really helped me change my diet – it made me more aware of reading labels and just thinking about what I’m putting into my body. I’ve also been able to make adjustments in my husband’s diet without too much trouble. One thing is I’m using more turkey than pork or ground beef. I’ve always been a fruit and veg eater – but now it’s become more a part of me. I ignore my husband and just say, ‘here are your vegetables!’ I don’t have any problems getting him to drink the smoothies. That’s why I’ve started putting everything into them – the nuts, the flax seeds, the protein, the multi-vitamins – I just throw them all in there and give it to him as a drink and he’s happy.
I paid attention to food labels on and off, you know sugar, salt, that stuff, but I often gave myself permission to ignore it if it was something I really liked. But now if it contains a lot of bad stuff I just push it aside. Or I opt for the low salt or low sugar versions. It’s helped me save money on groceries, actually. And when I’m out I try to avoid fries, and really mull over the options and try to choose something that’s better for me, particularly with the main course.
Another thing the class did for me was to put information in a concise, orderly way that made it easy to digest. I often don’t remember the detail of a lot of things, but I remember the spirit, so when I come across things then I remember, oh right, the book said do this or that, it helps trigger things. It’s become a part of what I do without necessarily thinking about the specific detail.
I have been feeling so good. Part of it is mental and part of it is physical. In the past I’ve been prone to major periods of weakness, when my whole body would just feel so weak. And I know it was to do with what I was eating – too many carbohydrates. The class helped me rethink a lot of that and not make it feel so terrible – not make it feel like you’re denying yourself things. The workshop became a tool for helping me take better care of myself. It really gave me permission to take care of myself.
I’m in a water aerobics class. I don’t go every week, but I’m hoping to get to a twice a week schedule. It helps with my energy, it helps with my knee joint. It’s fun because I meet other seniors – some of whom do it a whole lot better than I do! One of the things we talked about in the workshop was breathing – and being able to talk normally while exercising. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m moving towards it and using it as a goal.
About these workshops, I say to anyone, do it. The physical, the emotional and the social benefits, the aspect of being with other people I can relate to – it was a mixed group, different cultures and so forth – it’s a way to get people out of stuck ideas because it gives you an opportunity to open up. It was a well- rounded program, I looked forward to it. There wasn’t one day when I thought, ugh, I don’t want to go. It’s an opportunity for real, personal growth. If anyone can they should go. It was fantastic. Even if they don’t get as much out of it as I did, it’s still worth it. Just get out of bed, get dressed and do it. It’s absolutely worth it.”
For more information about Health Self-Management please click here.