Age: 53

Issue: Help deal with issues of aging, maintaining her independence in order to not be a burden to her children and to better enjoy her life

Chronic Illness: Chronic pain from joint dysfunction due to arthritis

Quote: “This program has helped me restore hope and made me more reflective – I have made tiny changes that have made a big difference.”

Claire is a 53-year-old married woman with 4 grown children. She lives with her husband and dog. She is college educated, holds a graduate degree in English. She is an English teacher and writer. Her husband is also an educated professional.

Maintaining Independence

Like many individuals, she entered the Healthy Lifetime program to help her deal with issues of aging, maintaining her independence in order to not be a burden to her children and to better enjoy her life. She was assigned a nurse by the Healthy Lifetime program coordinator and completed some initial assessments and received a visit from the nurse counselor.

Initially, she focused on physical health issues with her nurse counselor. She stated that her major ‘health issue’ was chronic pain from joint dysfunction due to arthritis. She also has an unspecified autoimmune problem that causes inflammation. She has pain, physical discomfort and fatigue ‘fairly often’ and rated her overall health as ‘3 – Good’ on a 5-point scale. She states she has moderate impairment of social activities, routine housework and doing hobbies. She reported some difficulty in understanding many aspects of taking her prescribed medicine. She uses many alternative sources of care such as yoga and wishes insurance would pay for alternative choices like that. Her income is not high – reportedly $50K or less a year – but seems to spend out of pocket money on alternative health care methods.

Small Steps Toward Healthy Living

But the nurse counselor had her define her goals for healthy living. Claire started the session goals by focusing on goals that were highly related to ‘health’ – including increasing her walking, reducing alcohol drinking each evening, and increasing water intake. But she quickly shifted to a goal of ‘eating dinner at the table with my husband’. Through her interactions with the trained nurse coach, who understands senior issues, she realized that her goals need to be broadened to the ones that were truly important to her.

As sessions with the nurse coach progressed she spoke more about significant issues with her daughter [who is depressed] that kept her and her husband ‘on the couch’ at night – they ate dinner there, watched TV there, and sat silent together there.

As she progressed in sessions she and her husband ate more at the dinner table, watched less TV and ‘talked more’. She said that the ‘couch’ was symbolic of the grief they experienced over events with their daughter – they were stagnated on the couch. She wrote a blog about this and credited the HL program with helping her and her husband focus on the issue and make the decision to move off the couch and ‘get on with their lives’. At one point they got rid of the couch and ordered new furniture – to totally change the atmosphere in the room. She said sometimes she and her husband would be ‘crabby’ together at dinner now but the meal time was long enough that they worked through that and ended up with good conversation.

Claire stated that the video journaling helped her focus on her goals. She also states that the combination of the journaling with the nurse coach helped her develop better decision making skills that she can use for the remainder of her life. These include:

Claire [and by influence her husband] talked more about her health goals and outlined some important changes – walking more, drinking at dinner only on weekends, eating better. They were spending more time talking together and she said – even starting to laugh again. She started talking about doing more crocheting – a favorite hobby, enjoying ‘having the house to herself’ when her husband went out of town [this was something they did for each other when the kids were growing up – he gave her space to be by herself]. She talked about helping her daughter deal with her depression.

As the eight weeks progressed, Claire began to feel more in control. She realized that the program was helping her physically and mentally and teaching her skills that would have a lasting impact on living an independent life.

At the last session she talked about the program: “I think it’s great – I had anxiety at the beginning of working with someone new. Once I met the nurse counselor that issue was resolved. Because we took time at beginning and I realized that you were trained as a senior specialist, a solid relationship was established. The nurse counselor listened to my concerns, my story, and as I talked about it helped me find my own goals. There was a structured process with flexibility to meet my individual needs. That was process was good.”

She goes on to say: “The daily recording helped me to create personal accountability. I now know how to do my walking every day even when it is cold, drinking alcohol is much less important to me now. My daughter and her boyfriend are now eating more together and talking more together too. My husband just learned he has atrial fibrillation – I know we will get more problems as we age – so it is so good we know more about how to stay connected to each other [as a support system] and how to stay healthier. I also told my mom about this program and I think this program would be really good for her too. This program will help her restore hope. This program has made me more reflective – I am up now early in the morning, do my writing, and have made tiny changes that have made a big difference.”

The Healthy Lifetime program is designed to help people like Claire life a more active, healthy and better-quality life. It teaches people a variety of skills to help them become more independent as they age.