“[The DSME program] is a proactive way to take charge of your diabetes,” says Donna Leonard, BSN, RN, a Diabetes Educator and DSME Program coordinator at Lexington Medical Center. “The more you know about the disease, the better you can take care of yourself and your body.” The program, recognized by the American Diabetes Association, is designed to teach participants the basics of diabetes and how best to approach nutrition, physical activity, medications and disease monitoring at home. Leonard, who has with more than 30 years of nursing experience, teaches the three-hour class each Wednesday, alongside two of Lexington Medical Center’s registered dietitian/nutritionists, Denise Robinson, RDN, and Caroline Hodges, MS, RDN. Classes are held in small groups, with the option of one-on-one consultations for patients with learning disabilities or language barriers.
The first part of the course focuses on diabetes education and self-care, with participants learning about different types of diabetes, how and when to monitor blood sugar, foot exam techniques, the importance of physical activity and ways to reduce stress. They also discuss ways in which different medicines work and the importance of medication adherence. The second part of the program focuses on the role of diet in controlling diabetes. Hodges and Robinson teach how different food groups affect blood sugar, the role of carbohydrates in diabetes and how to determine serving sizes for foods you commonly eat. They also share tips for meal planning, reading food labels, cooking at home and eating out.
Hodges explained that participants also learn how to plan a healthy plate using food models in an interactive exercise to build confidence in planning daily meals. Classes also discuss participants’ current food choices and options for healthier alternatives.
“Food choice is one of the main components of diabetes management, and there are many misconceptions about what you can and can’t eat,” said Hodges. “It’s important to learn that you can still have the foods that you enjoy, but within limits. It all boils down to moderation and being knowledgeable about your choices.”
At the close of the class, each patient makes a medical and lifestyle goal to achieve over the next few months. There are one-on-one follow-up sessions available after one month with the dietitian to track progress and discuss meal planning. After three months, there is a one-on-one session with the diabetes educator to review goal setting and discuss progress in achieving a better level of diabetes control.
“Managing diabetes doesn’t have to be a daily challenge,” said Leonard. “Our team at Lexington Medical Center is here to be your partner in diabetes management, offer support and give you the tools to lead a healthy, active life.”
To enroll in a DSME program, patients must be referred from their primary care physician. Contact your physician today to start your path to better blood sugar and diabetes control!