Living Well

Local Group Leads Chronic Disease Self-Management Program

Posted: January 10, 2014

Joyce Nussbaum (right) and Cathie Galvin lead a group discussion during a Chronic Disease Self-Management leaders training workshop Jan. 7. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Hilary Bierly lists situations that carry a risk of fall during a workshop hosted Jan. 7 at the Price Rotary Senior Center in Westover Park. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Crystal Bailey responds to a question during a group discussion at the Chronic Disease Self-Management leaders workshop Jan. 7. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)

About 20 years ago, Grottoes resident Cheryl Sions received an explanation for the pain that wracked her body following a car crash.

 She injured her back during the wreck, but the pain began to travel throughout her body, and she couldn’t understand why.

Finally, a doctor informed Sions that she had fibromyalgia — a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, fatigue and other symptoms, including tenderness in joints, muscles and soft tissue, as well as depression.

“They told me there really wasn’t much to do about it,” said Sions, who works at Care Is There, a Charlottesville-based geriatric care management company. “Nothing ever seemed to really help.”

But in the past five years, she’s been more active in her own self-management of the disorder, namely through exercise, diet and education.

So, it made sense that she attended a chronic disease self-management program leader training held by the Valley Program for Aging Services in Harrisonburg this week. Not only was she training so she could teach others the Stanford University-developed, evidence-based Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, but the tips also come in handy with her own disorder.

“I would recommend it for anybody who’s facing a chronic health condition,” she said about the program.  

Local volunteer leaders who underwent training this week, such as Sions, will lead CDSMP workshops throughout the year. Two trained leaders facilitate each workshop, at least one of whom has a chronic condition.

The program is offered internationally, but in Virginia, it’s known as “You Can! Live Well, Virginia!”

A free, six-week workshop based on the program will be offered to adults with any chronic condition and/or family members and caregivers at RMH Funkhouser Women’s Center from 1:30-4 p.m. each Tuesday from Jan. 21 through Feb. 25.

Three years ago, Catherine C. Galvin, now executive director of the Front Royal-based Shenandoah Agency on Aging, who was working at VPAS at the time, applied for a grant to administer the international program locally. VPAS received that grant from the U.S. Administration for Community Living through the Department of Health and Human Services. 


“I felt like that it was really an important empowerment tool for people to feel like that they could self-manage chronic conditions,” Galvin said. “I knew that it would have some effect, not only on [those with chronic conditions], but [also a positive effect] on the health care system because they wouldn’t use it as much if they felt empowered to self-manage.”

Galvin added that she’s been very pleased with the program, as she’s seen the results in those who have attended workshops.

“We had one participant whose family was making a lot of demands on her and so, just to be able to say, ‘No, I can’t deal with all your issues; I need to take time to manage my own health,’ that was a big achievement for her,” Galvin explained.

Learning how to communicate with family members and health care professionals is just one benefit of attending a CDSMP workshop. Participants also receive support from trained leaders and other participants, learn practical ways to manage physical symptoms and emotional trauma, and learn about proper nutrition and exercise choices, among other benefits.

“The bottom line …  of the program is that everybody chooses whether to be an active or a passive self-manager,” says Joyce Nussbaum, chronic disease self-management education coordinator with VPAS.
The workshop’s goal is to assist participants in becoming more active self-managers.

“We talk about taking small steps to a larger goal,” Nussbaum said. “There’s no better time than right now to take care of your health.”

Common chronic conditions include diabetes, heart disease, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and high blood pressure, to name a few, Nussbaum said.

According to information collected by VPAS, 2.2 million Virginians are estimated to be living with at least one chronic condition, which cause seven out of 10 deaths every year.

For more information about the program, contact Nussbaum at 820-8567 or To register for the upcoming workshop at RMH Funkhouser Women’s Center, call RMH Healthsource at 564-7200.

Contact Candace Sipos at  574- 6275 or

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