Learning to manage your diabetes

Centres teach how to live day-to-day with disease

A government-suggested shift in diabetic education and care from hospitals is changing the way people diagnosed with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes approach their illness.

While visits to hospitals for medical regulation and the monitoring of medication, such as insulin, are essential to the well-being of a person living with diabetes, community diabetes education centres (DECs) and support groups focus on teaching individuals how to manage their diabetes on a daily basis.

Brenda Hartman worked for the Durham Region Diabetes Network (DRDN) as a dietician in diabetes education. She says that most doctors are not trained in educating their patients.

“Doctors are important in that they monitor medications, but if a patient doesn’t understand how to use them effectively, then the disease progresses faster than if the patient is empowered and works hard to control their blood sugars early through diet, medication and exercise,” she said.

Diabetes education centres and support groups focus on self-management. Their goal is to teach diabetics how the disease operates, how to change their diet and lifestyle to slow the damage to their body, and what government financial aid they can apply for to help cover medicine, insulin testers and other needs.

Giselle Sicchia, office manager of the Diabetes Regional Coordination Centre, a part of the Local Health Integration Networks, says the integration of programs in healthcare is one of the benefits of the education centres.

“The idea is you come not just for your diabetes, but for your whole healthcare surrounding your diabetes.”

In Scarborough, roughly eight out of every 100 people are diagnosed with a form of diabetes. Sicchia says that one reason diabetes is so prevalent in Scarborough is because certain ethnic groups carry a higher risk of contracting diabetes.

“[Scarborough] has higher immigrant populations, who have a higher percentage of people at risk for diabetes. Asians, Hispanics and the black population have a very high risk,” Sicchia said.

Cathy Robb, a diabetes education specialist and nurse at The Scarborough Hospital, explains that the DEC’s, support groups and the hospital all serve different functions.

“Acute patients are seen in hospital settings with all appropriate support readily available or after a critical event, stabilized then returned to a community centre for maintenance,” Robb said.

Hartman, who ran several community education sessions and support groups in Oshawa, suggests diabetics get involved with a community support group as well as visiting an education centre.

“They cater to individuals who may have been diagnosed by their doctors but not given any information, people who have had diabetes for a while but need to re-educate themselves, or people who were diagnosed but in denial so missed a lot of the information,” Hartman said.