Sherbourne Health’s Diabetes Education Program builds community and provides support
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a month that recognizes the widespread impact diabetes has: one in three Canadians have diabetes or prediabetes, and that number is expected to increase. Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects blood sugar levels. People with Type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin from a young age. Type 2 diabetes is usually developed later in life and causes people’s bodies to be unable to use insulin effectively. Researchers predict 12 per cent of the population will be diabetic by 2025.
To reduce diabetes-related health problems and support people with diabetes, Sherbourne Health runs the Diabetes Education Program (DEP). DEP has many services — such as one-on-one counselling and food coaching. Its monthly support group, which is open to anyone interested in joining, plays a major role in building long-term relationships with older service users.
The support group brings together people who face challenges managing diabetes, including a number of seniors with chronic pain and mobility issues.
“It’s a community-based way to support people, so that they can manage their diabetes without reaching the point where they need to go to the hospital,” explains Daniella Moss, a diabetes nurse educator. Seniors with diabetes require personalized strategies that account for different issues, such as memory loss and lesser physical endurance. They are also the most likely age group to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Daniella partners up with registered dietitian Nikki Maclellan to facilitate the program’s support group, which has helped attendees since 2015.
A typical group meeting will include breathing exercises, questions from participants, and sharing wellness advice. The support group model allows for rapport with others managing diabetes and a sense of belonging, which positively impacts their emotional and physical wellbeing.
“We get feedback in terms of the topics that we bring. People will say, ‘I started this supplement we discussed’ or ‘I tried out this recipe,’ so it’s very practical information,” says Nikki.
As a non-judgmental space, many attendees feel safe to ask general health questions.
During early pandemic sessions, which took place online to keep senior members safe, asking how COVID-19 spreads and how vaccines work helped participants understand how diabetes can make someone more at-risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms or dying from complications.
Josie, a long-time participant in the support group, says the group has helped them learn information about their condition.
“My favourite part about the group is the community support and information that helps us, especially with diabetes and stress management,” Josie says, adding that the group also helps them stay updated on news from Sherbourne and other programs.
As a chronic condition that requires constant monitoring and specific dietary needs, diabetes can be difficult for one person to manage without help, says Nikki. When left unchecked, complications can lead to hospitalization for health issues like vision loss and cardiovascular disease. According to health organization Diabetes Canada, people with diabetes are three times more likely to be hospitalized for heart conditions.
By leading an active lifestyle, staying on top of nutrition, and following treatment plans outlined by medical professionals, people with diabetes can lead healthy lives. Visit our Diabetes Education Program page for more information about the program, its services, and joining the DEP support group.