Oregon State Legislator Keeps Her Health Goals With Help of OHSU'S Healthy Aging Project

02/27/01    SALEM, Ore.

Carolyn Tomei wanted to stay slim during her term as a state legislator living in Salem for the next several months.

"You may have heard how wonderful the food is in the House Lounge. I heard how people had gained 40 pounds by the time the session was over. I didn't want that to happen to me. Plus, there's so little time for exercise. I'm healthy and I wanted to stay healthy," Tomei, 65, Milwaukie, said.

As the former Mayor of Milwaukie, she found that she was even busier in her new role. Her days and most evenings are packed with meetings and other work.

"It's like a three-ring circus. So many people want your time. It's extremely stressful," Tomei said.

She had planned to take walks at noon, but that time is consumed with noon meetings. Her regular routine of working out at a Milwaukie gym is impossible because she's only home on weekends. She is 5 feet 5 inches tall and she wanted to maintain her 114 pounds.

She found help shortly after the November election when she joined Oregon Health Sciences University's Healthy Aging Project. She was among the first group of participants to sign up for this 15-month, proactive approach to health care. The project is open to new participants and is actively seeking more participants.

Participants receive personalized, coordinated care from a team of health professionals. The team includes a primary care provider, a nurse practitioner and nurse coaches skilled in health promotion and wellness. With the team's help, participants develop their own health goals, and receive ongoing education and support to reach those goals.

Tomei had three face-to-face meetings with members of the Healthy Aging team to learn about the program and for her nurse coach to work with her to design health goals that would fit her individual lifestyle.

"Our job is to get a better understanding of each patient. It's not a cookie cutter approach," said wellness coordinator Michael Brody, R.N., Tomei's nurse coach.

He follows up regularly with Tomei by telephone and e-mail.

"A lot of people say that I'm their conscience. It's important for people to have someone to whom they can be accountable," Brody said.

Tomei's plan includes having a big salad and the entree in the House Lounge restaurant in the Capitol, keeping sweets to a minimum, taking a walk or exercising at least once during the week, and working out at her Milwaukie gym on Fridays and Sundays. To help ease tension, Brody gave Tomei some stretching and breathing exercises. When Tomei was the Milwaukie Mayor she could stand up and stretch during long meetings.

"I can't do that in these meetings. So, I do my neck exercises in some of the meetings, and I do some of the other exercises here in my office between meetings. I walk as much as I can. I now wear comfortable shoes," she said.

Even with her busy schedule, she has kept her weight steady.

"The Healthy Aging Project has been a lifesaver to me. It's made me conscious about the choices I make about my health," Tomei said.

Those interested in obtaining more information about the Healthy Aging Project can call 503 494-7757.