This spring, the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM) partnered with Lincoln Golden Ages to offer the Diabetes Personal Action Towards Health (Diabetes PATH) program to about a dozen participants. The free health workshop took place over a 6-week period and was led by two trained leaders.
Diabetes PATH provides information and skills to adults with type 2 diabetes so they are better equipped to face the daily challenges of living with their condition. Workshop leaders hold informal discussions and provide materials that teach participants various skills to manage their disease. Weekly topics include: 1) ways to deal with the symptoms of diabetes, fatigue, pain, hyper/hypoglycemia, stress, various emotional problems, and more; 2) benefitting from physical activity and improving strength and endurance; 3) eating healthy and planning healthy meals; 4) using medications appropriately; 5) monitoring blood glucose; and 6) working effectively with health care providers. Participants also learn about self-help tools that can enhance daily activities. They are encouraged to practice the skills they learn by making weekly action plans and helping each other reach the goals they set.
Diabetes PATH participants either have diabetes themselves or have a family member with diabetes. After completing the program, all participants had positive remarks about various skills they had learned from Diabetes PATH. One participant, who has a family member with diabetes, said “I’ve learned that blood glucose monitoring is the only way to know how she’s doing.”
Another participant talked about how the class gave her ideas for getting healthy to prevent complications. “I’m trying to keep more things on hand so I can have snacks that are healthy,” she said. She also mentioned that she planned on eating healthy to prevent low and high blood sugar.
Lisa Klinkman of the NKFM, who was one of the leaders for the class, said that many people with diabetes don’t realize how significantly blood glucose monitoring and carbohydrate awareness affects their health. “It’s an eye-opening moment when people realize they can gain control of their blood sugar with physical activity and healthy eating,” said Lisa. “When people see what they’re eating, they’re shocked and realize it’s one of the main reasons their blood sugar is out of control.”
In addition to learning skills to improve their health, participants also gained the support and guidance needed to motivate themselves to stay healthy. “I gained motivation to take better care of myself,” a participant said.
Lisa mentioned that the skills learned in Diabetes PATH are also useful outside of class. “For example, the concept of carb counting is new for many people,” said Lisa. “In the class, we put it into practical use, then people go home and put into practice.”
Although Diabetes PATH provides education to participants, Lisa explained that the reason it is so successful is because it introduces concepts beyond education, such as making action plans. “I think what makes Diabetes PATH different is that it’s about more than education,” said Lisa. “It’s also about making action plans that work then putting them into practice. It’s being accountable to the group and problem solving together.”
Diabetes PATH is appropriate for people who are newly diagnosed as well as those who have been living with diabetes for years and caregivers. It has been proven in studies to reduce symptoms and physician visits as well as increase self-management abilities and communication with doctors.
For more information about Diabetes PATH or other programs offered by the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, call 800-482-1455 or visit the Diabetes PATH page.