Program Helps Patients Manage Diabetes

Carol McCourt, M.D. Talking with Diabetes PatientsDiabetes is America’s fastest growing chronic disease. To put it in perspective, the Center for Disease Control released statistics showing the number of American adults with diagnosed diabetes in 1984 was 5.9 million; today, that number is well over 20 million. It is also believed that millions more have the disease, but haven’t been diagnosed.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when blood sugar is too high either because of inadequate insulin production, the body’s cells inability to respond to insulin, or both. Diabetes is a serious illness that can lead to other health issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, sight loss and amputation. The good news is that diabetes can be well managed in most patients through diet, exercise, and, for some, prescribed medication.

The Diabetes Self Management Education and Support (DSME/s) program at the WRMC Medical Complex in Cherokee Village is working to help diabetic patients understand how to make the necessary changes to manage their diabetes.

“Many people think that diabetes is a disease that controls their life,” said Diabetic Educator/Program Coordinator Sandy Jones, RN. “What many don’t realize is that simple lifestyle changes can help patients control their diabetes.”

The DSME/S program, which is in its second year, has helped several participants learn to manage their diabetes and live a healthier life.

Jim Hinton of Cherokee Village is one of those participants. He has Type 2 Diabetes, the most common form. Before diagnosis, he admits that his eating and exercise habits weren’t the best. “I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, with very little exercise,” he said.

After diagnosis almost a year ago, his physician recommended the DSME/s program. “I started almost immediately, and I have seen dramatic changes,” he said. Since beginning the program, he has lost over 50 pounds, and reduced his A1C numbers (the numbers that show how much sugar is in the blood) almost by half. “I truly believe this program may have saved my life. Through it I have improved my diet, developed an exercise program, and am overall more aware of the effects of diabetes and the preventative measures I need to take.”

James Jones of Cherokee Village is another participant who has made great strides to control his diabetes. With a family history of the disease, Jones admits it was almost expected. Family history is a major risk factor of Diabetes. Since beginning the program, he has not only learned how to cook better meals and develop exercise habits, but he has also learned ways to take better care of his feet.

One major complication that more than half the people with diabetes experience is neuropathy, or nerve damage. Neuropathy can lead to sharp pain or loss of feeling in the parts of the body such as the hands and feet. With loss of feeling, diabetic patients are more prone to develop slow healing sores.

Many diabetics may develop sores and not know they are there, which can lead to even more serious complications. The DSME/s program teaches the importance of checking hands and feet regularly.

Without a family history of diabetes, Marjorie Butner of Cherokee Village says it was “hard to believe” when she discovered she had diabetes a year ago. “We watched our eating habits fairly closely,” she says.

However, she began to have dizzy spells and loss of energy. She took action when she lost consciousness during a shopping trip.

She, too, was referred to the DSME/s program by her physician. She has learned what types of food she can and cannot eat, developed an exercise plan, and has learned the importance of self-monitoring. “I check my blood three times a day to make sure my sugar is under control.”

Developing better eating and exercise habits, and monitoring are all large parts of the program, but an even larger focus is on support.

“Some of these people have to turn their entire lives around to manage their diabetes,” said Jones. “We always encourage friends and family members to participate in the program with their loved ones so they can support them in their new lifestyle and make the changes with them. I am proud of the level of support these participants receive from those close to them.”

Hinton, Jones, and Butner, and many others in the program all have spouses, other family members, and even friends that participate in the program with them.

The first group of patients participating in the program is set to graduate from it this month, which, appropriately, is also Diabetes Awareness Month.

Diabetic education classes are held bi-weekly at the WRMC Medical Complex in Cherokee Village. The program consists of classes, small groups, and monthly motivational presentations. The focus of the program is on diabetic education, diet and exercise education, self management, stress and pain management, support, and more. Jones collaborates with each patient’s physician to ensure the most effective outcomes. Anyone with diabetes may participate in the program. Those who wish to participate need to be referred by a physician. For more information, including information on cost and insurance coverage, call Sandy Jones at (870) 257-6010.