Diabetes center offers education to patients

Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions, with a person dying every 10 seconds due to a diabetes-related illness.

According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 20.8 million children and adults suffering from this chronic ailment.

Diabetes is an especially important topic of discussion for the residents of Sequim. The two most prevalent types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. While Type 1 affects children and young adults, Type 2 diabetes often develops in men and women over age 45, and 18 percent of the country’s 65 and older population suffers from Type 2 diabetes. With the average age of Sequim residents being 59, area health professionals are putting an emphasis on the disease, which to date has no cure.

Olympic Medical Center unveiled its Diabetes Education Program in the summer, with its own space on the second floor of the hospital’s east wing. With a 20-person capacity classroom, private consulting room and two dietitian offices, the center serves for both the hospital’s diabetes and nutrition services. According to Candi Schaefermeyer RN, who supervises the diabetes education program, nutrition and diabetes tend to go hand in hand.

“The No. 1 question that patients have when they’ve been diagnosed with diabetes is, ‘Well, what can I eat?’” Schaefermeyer said.

The purpose of the program according to Schaefermeyer is to educate patients about how to live, and more importantly how to live well while dealing with their diabetes. Schaefermeyer describes the curriculum — which includes the ABCs of diabetes, goal setting, nutrition, exercise, medications and the complications associated with the disease — as being as fun and interactive as possible, with a lot of opportunities for open discussion.

Not only is good nutrition essential to those living with diabetes, but so are exercise and losing weight. According to Schaefermeyer, most people with Type 2 diabetes are obese and as recently as last week researchers in Australia released a study that found that patients who underwent stomach band or gastric bypass surgeries were five times more likely to see their diabetes disappear.

Schaefermeyer hopes that more doctors will refer patients to the medical center’s diabetes education program. Until now it’s usually been left up to nurses to educate newly diagnosed patients, and nurses usually don’t have the time to give their patients concentrated, one-on-one tutorials.

The diabetes education program hopes to begin a Port Angeles support group (Sequim already has a very successful one), but this requires recruiting qualified volunteers. The program also would like to provide evening classes and to bring more classes to the Sequim area.

The center is open 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 417-7125.

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