Living with Chronic Conditions

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on June 29, 2016

As we live longer, most of us will face the challenge of coping with one or more chronic conditions like diabetes or congestive heart failure. In fact four out of five older Americans now live with multiple chronic conditions.

A new program, BetterLiving 65, can make it easier. Carilion developed this chronic care management program last year and offers it to Medicare patients with two or more chronic conditions. So far 1,200 patients have signed up.

"The program helps patients understand and manage their conditions and gives them the resources to participate more actively in their own care,” said Anthony Stavola, M.D., vice chair of Family Medicine at Carilion. “Our team approach helps to address the multiple needs of patients. In a one-on-one relationship, you just can’t do it all.”

For instance, Donnie Martin of Franklin County, who has diabetes, COPD, high blood pressure, Stage III CKD (chronic kidney disease) and asthma, has struggled for years to manage them all.

“You can’t just focus on one thing,” he said. “What might be beneficial for one disease might cause problems with another.”

With the help of his wife, Kathy, Donnie has juggled visits to his primary care doctor and several specialists. Together they’ve also tried to keep abreast of everything he needs to know to manage his diet, exercise and medications.

After enrolling in BetterLiving 65, Donnie was given a personalized care plan developed by a team of specialists that included his doctors, a pharmacist, a diabetes educator, a registered nurse and a dietitian. And he gets regular calls from his care coordinators to see if he needs help in any way. The Martins in turn are free to call them with any questions.

“Calling and talking to someone is so much better than waiting for a doctor visit,” Kathy said. “To be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone is key. It gives us both peace of mind.”

“Since starting the program, Donnie has definitely gotten better,” Kathy added. “I’d encourage others our age who have chronic conditions to take advantage of this program. It’s really fantastic.”