Diabetes education empowers the patient to live healthfully and happily

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People who attend Valley West Hospital's “Diabetes: Self Management” series will learn the latest diet and management techniques. “It is such a relief for people to hear there are no ‘forbidden’ foods,’’ said Valley West registered nurse Sue Clifford. | File photo

Diabetes: Self Management

Session starting 9 – 11 am, Monday, May 6

Valley West Medical Office Building,

1310 N. Main St., Sandwich

Call (815) 786-3684 for registration and fee details

A diagnosis of diabetes is not the kind of news patients want to hear. Yet today diabetes has become one of the myriad conditions that health professionals consider “manageable,” and Valley West Community Hospital in Sandwich offers just the tools patients need to do that.

“Diabetes: Self Management” is an educational series for the newly diagnosed as well as those who have been battling the condition and want to keep up with the latest diet delete diet and management techniques. A new series begins each month, with the next session starting May 6.

“It is such a relief for people to hear there are no ‘forbidden’ foods,’’ said Sue Clifford, RN, CDE, who along with Lori Updike, RN, CDE and Becky Andrews, MS, RD, LDN, CDE teach the program. Clifford, who has diabetes herself, said so much has changed in diabetes care in just the last 15 years that patients are surprised at the amount of flexibility they have in food choices.

“We are able to introduce and help people become carbohydrate aware and adjust their medications to their needs,’’ Clifford said. “This way people can feel in charge of their health instead of feeling like they have to ‘report in’ about what they’ve been eating.”

She pointed out that building an understanding of carbohydrates is eye-opening.

Valley West Diabetes educators no longer focus on the concept that certain foods are not allowed. In fact, the saying “all foods can fit” is often spoken here. An example might be that ½ cup ice cream has a similar amount of carbohydrate to a small apple. Thus, these foods would have a similar effect on blood glucose. And that it is why all foods can fit.

Meanwhile, Clifford pointed out that the self-management program does emphasize healthful eating and lifestyles. She said diabetes is among the leading causes of cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, limb amputation and blindness.

The program aims to head off these issues by covering:

• Medications

• Education

• Monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar

• Stress management

• Activity levels/exercise

• Nutrition

While under the supervision of a physician, Valley West diabetes patients are referred initially to a two-hour individual education session with a nurse and dietitian. All of the teachers are Certified Diabetes Educators and the program is recognized by the American Diabetes Association, which means Medicare and most private insurance will cover the cost of the program. The program works on the team concept, with the person with diabetes as director of their team.

Clifford pointed out that the patients themselves are the most important members of team. The patient is in charge of their own testing, their own eating and activity levels.

“Our program empowers participants to self-manage their diabetes and improve problem-solving skills so they can benefit from lifelong good health.”

“But the group education sessions provide a wonderful support network too. Family members are welcome to attend, and camaraderie quickly develops as group members swap recipes and tips for shopping,” she said.

“Planning ahead for healthy meals helps everybody in the home,’’ Clifford said.

So having a family member making better food choices alongside the person with diabetes is a win for everyone.

“I think the program shows people with diabetes that their life doesn’t have to be restricted,’’ she said. “Some of the patients have forgotten what it’s like to feel good. We want to help bring that feeling back.”