Free diabetes management series focuses on the positives

By Alison Rooney

With six two-hour sessions devoted to the topic, people diagnosed with diabetes can learn just what they can do to both control the disease and still do all the things they want to do.

This focus on the positive is at the core of a newly developed workshop, offered free of charge courtesy of a grant, by the Putnam Independent Living division of the Westchester Independent Living Center (WILC), an advocacy group for individuals with disabilities. The workshop takes place at Butterfield Library beginning Tuesday, March 24, in morning sessions from 9:30 to 11:30. Geared both to adults who have been diagnosed and their caregivers, the workshop is particularly designed for those diagnosed with Type 2, but those with Type 1 are welcome as well.

“It’s all about self-management,” said Lonna Kelly of WILC, who will be facilitating the workshops with Mildred Caballero-Ho. “It’s for those who are newly diagnosed along with people who have had it for quite a while but who could use a better plan to manage their chronic illness. Having peers participate is a big component.”

Diabetes workshop facilitators Lonna Kelly, left, and Mildred Caballero-Ho
Diabetes workshop facilitators Lonna Kelly, left, and Mildred Caballero-Ho

Caballero-Ho said: “It’s not just about managing their diabetes, but also about the impact that diabetes has on their lives. We assist people in becoming active managers. People get to talk to one another about strategies and provide support to one another.”

Kelly added, “It’s a serious illness and it has to be taken seriously, but there’s a lot people can do to manage it well, from monitoring blood sugar to incorporating positive thinking and stress management as well.”

The program stresses the positives. “This is about what you can do, not what you can’t,” Caballero-Ho said, with Kelly interjecting, “For example, you can definitely still eat out.”

“Doctors tend to tell you all the things that will hurt you,” said Caballero-Ho. In fact my husband has diabetes and he is far healthier now, managing it, than he was before. These sessions will put a different spin on things.”

Both facilitators have experience with chronic illness themselves — Caballero-Ho through her husband and also her own experiences with rheumatoid arthritis, which she was diagnosed with at age 5, and Kelly’s brother was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 8. “There’s always been a focus and awareness of it in our family’s lives,” Kelly noted.

Misconceptions are part and parcel of a diabetes diagnosis; for instance, Caballero-Ho said that when her husband was diagnosed, “Honestly, I thought it was going to be a huge burden and that he was going to have a lot of complications. In fact in my mind I thought it meant he would have a shorter life span.” This workshop aims to dispel those misconceptions.

The six-week evidence-based program (participants are urged to join at the outset, though they can begin with the second session if necessary) was developed at Stanford University, and the facilitators were trained through SUNY Albany. Topics to be covered include nutrition; problem solving; preventing low blood sugar; coping with depression and different emotions; skin and foot care; managing sick days; and how to manage relationships with doctors so that they don’t just tell you what to do and what not to do.

Another component is deciphering food labels. “It’s really helpful, because labels are so mysterious; we break them down,” Kelly said. The workshop will also address the impact of a diabetes diagnosis on those around the person diagnosed, or “how do we communicate with them in the best way for them to be supportive of us?”

The session dates are consecutive Tuesday mornings March 24 and 31, April 7, 14, 21 and 28, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Anyone with questions on the program is welcome to call Kelly at 845-228-7457, ext. 1110, or email her at [email protected]. Pre-registration is required as places are limited and is done through Butterfield Library either at or by phone at 845-265-3040.

Photo courtesy of Putnam Independent Living

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rooney has been writing for The Current since its founding in 2010. A playwright, she has lived in Cold Spring since 1999. She is a graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in history. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: Arts