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Diabetes Education Team Provides Information and Support

Diabetes Education Team Provides Information and Support

Programs and support for those with diabetes

Diabetes is common, it is chronic, and it is serious. Experts estimate that approximately 14 million Americans have diabetes (though about half of them don't know it), and each year more than 600,000 people in this country are diagnosed with this disease.

One of the most difficult problems new diabetic patients face is a mountain of information. Nurse educator, Cindy Parlett, R.N., says it can feel overwhelming: "It's hard for people to take it all in and prioritize what they need to learn first. Medical knowledge and medical treatment change; they've changed a lot just since I started nursing 20 years ago. People change, too, as the disease progresses."

To help people with diabetes learn about this chronic illness and how to manage it, Cayuga Center for Healthy Living offers a three-session program. "It's open to anyone who is diabetic and wants to learn more about how to maintain a full and healthy life," says Parlett. "We encourage family involvement and suggest that participants bring a support person with them."

Parlett, who is a registered nurse and diabetes educator, is one of three health-care specialists who lead the series of classes. Her focus is on ensuring that participants understand the basics of the disease, including how to control and monitor their blood sugar. She also covers the role of exercise and diet in controlling diabetes, personal habits that prevent acute problems, and ways to prevent or delay serious complications from diabetes, such as kidney disease, vascular problems, and diabetic retinopathy.

Parlett is joined by Deb Siegert, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, and registered pharmacist Ann-Marie Esposito, who has training in diabetes management. Siegert concentrates her efforts on diet and realistic menu planning to help participants maintain their health. Esposito explains how insulin and medicine for diabetes work together to lower blood sugar, and how to avoid drug interactions and other adverse effects.

"Our goals for participants in the program are to help them become self-sufficient and to get them actively involved in their own care," says Parlett. "We want people to understand that they can't simply rely on their doctor to keep them well. This is a lifelong disease, and it can't be cured by a pill. But people can exercise control over their diabetes, and not resign themselves to the idea that they will end up with kidney disease or other complications because they are diabetic. With proper management, people can live long, normal lives."

Before classes start, each participant will be met with individually to get a history. This information is shared with the other instructors so that program information can be tailored to each individual class member. "We set up realistic, measurable goals with each person to establish what they want to get out of the classes. Three months later, we contact everyone to see how they are doing in meeting their goals."

"It's easy for diabetics to become depressed and feel like they're alone," Parlett observes, "but they aren't alone. We are always here for people, and we're happy to talk with them over the phone. We want participants to be pro-active, stay focused and on top of changes, and do whatever it takes to control their blood sugar. And we're here to help."

If you are diabetic and have a doctor's referral, the cost of this class is covered by most health insurance programs. People without insurance who meet financial criteria, may be eligible for scholarship funds. For more information about the diabetes education program or for individual counseling, call 252-3590 at the Cayuga Center for Healthy Living.

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