Mark Harvey — Living Well with Chronic Conditions

Last week was a long time ago, but if memory serves (however sporadically), we’d been talking about “long-term care.” I finished that little column by saying, “… think and prepare, while understanding that tea leaves and tarot cards won’t show us what we think we want to know: Tomorrow. We think we want to know how the story is going to end.

… but we really don’t; because if we did — What would have been the point of the story?”

One of the many funny — OK, “odd” — things that can happen when we start thinking about death is that we can, without meaning to, forget to think about “life,” meaning the simple fact that we are, after all, still here, which was, presumably, the whole point of this little Earth-bound experience, right?

So, if we’re here, it seems to make sense to make the most of it, right? To know that we are, at least, trying — somehow, that seems … comforting.

I like “comforting,” so I hope you find it as comforting as I do that I actually know when I’m repeating myself (at least, most of the time); happily, this is one of them.

I have observed before that most of us, if pressed to tell the truth, will confess that we don’t really want to live forever. It would likely be expensive, boring, lonely and ultimately annoying. (Can you even imagine an Eternity of trying to keep up with the day-to-day dysfunction of Hollywood’s citizenry?) No, most of us aren’t in hot pursuit of immortality; we just want to live until … well, until it’s time to stop.

The operative term here is “live.”

The thing is, that an increasing number of us are attempting to live with disagreeable developments, generally lumped together and called “chronic conditions,” meaning things like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, chronic pain and more — things that won’t go away. You know what’s true: You’re not going to get “well,” so the best you can do is try to learn to live with it.

The operative term here is “live.”

Some of us are better at that than others, some of us aren’t. Some of us do all the “right stuff,” some of us don’t. And a lot of us don’t have a clue about what the “right stuff” is, so we just try to live; day by day, hoping for the “best,” because hoping for the “worst” would be stupid, right?

Right. OK, so here’s your chance to learn a bit about how to “live,” and do it for free — the operative term there is “free.” Look:

Stanford University — yes, the Stanford — has been researching this “learning to live with it” stuff for years, and they’ve figured out what works with real people, so they’ve put together a program called “Living Well with Chronic Conditions,” because they found out that all these people trying to live with all these conditions were living with a lot of the same things: Pain, fatigue, stress, depression, sleeping problems, worrying about the future … Well, wouldn’t you?

So, Olympic Area Agency on Aging (known affectionately, if somewhat cryptically, as “O3A”) sent some folks off to Stanford to get smart and — sure enough! — they came back smart. Now, a lot of other good folks have learned this same stuff, and guess what? Yup, they’re smart, too! Now, they’re ready, willing and able to teach it all to you — for free.

No, they don’t beat you up about nutritional nuance or medical non-compliance or even what you don’t know about sub-cellular goings-on; they’re going to help a group of us figure out how we want to live better — day to day — our way, at our own speed.

You know, this could actually work.

These are 6-week long undertakings (OK, don’t say “undertakings”), a couple of hours, one day per week, with a few other folks who are trying to do the same thing that you’re trying to do. There are a number of these scheduled between now and early Spring of 2014 — that’s next year — but I’ll tell you what: People have figured out that these things actually work, so they fill up quickly!

I mentioned “free,” right? OK, all you have to do is (a) sign up, (b) show up and (c) want to have a life. Hey: When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.

To “sign up,” call 538-2457 (toll-free at 1-866-582-1487). Facilities are accessible for folks with disabilities and reasonable accommodations can be arranged with advance notice. If you want more info and/or testimonials, go to and look around for “Living Well with Chronic Conditions.”

You might want to do this pretty soon, because space is limited and I’ve got a feeling that more than a couple of us might be marginally interested in living.

“Showing up” and “wanting to have a life” are solely up to you.


Did I mention “free?”

I hope you find it as comforting as I do that I actually know when I’m repeating myself myself …

Mark Harvey is the director of Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.