By Empish Thomas, Public Education Manager
At CVI we are aware and understand that vision loss and diabetes can go hand in hand. As the number of people with diabetes grows in this country so does the possibility of losing vision to this disease. This month, the nation focuses on diabetes awareness, but at CVI the focus is daily. According to the American Diabetes Association, the number one cause of new vision loss cases in this country for people under 65 is diabetes. CVI recognizes this startling statistic and not only provides classes on diabetic management but a weekly support group as well. “I attend the support group to receive continuing motivation and support when battling my diabetes,” said one group member.
Since the late 90s, the group has assisted blind and visually impaired clients in managing their diabetes. "The support group was created to help form a social network for people with both diabetes and vision loss,” said Lynn Miller, CVI’s Diabetes Resource Coordinator and VRT. “There are very few of these groups around the nation, but they are catching on. Miller continues, "This group helps people cope with daily challenges of good diabetes self-management such as knowing the devices and skills necessary for blood glucose control, nutrition guidelines and meal planning, foot care, medication administration and how to independently dose and inject insulin.”
Additionally, CVI’s diabetes group focuses on exercise and attending diabetes conferences and expos. “Since exercise is medicine for blood glucose control, we have incorporated exercise classes for people who are blind or visually impaired,” said Miller. CVI has an exercise room that includes a treadmill, two exercise bikes, a stair climber, weight machines, dumbbells and exercise balls. All exercise equipment has been properly labeled so that a visually impaired person can use them independently.
The members have also participated in the ADA annual Step Out Walk for Diabetes at a local park. Members are given sighted guide assistance by a volunteer to walk and participate. Additionally, each year Miller and a group of sighted volunteers escort the support group members to local diabetes conferences. There the group members can peruse the exhibit tables gathering information and resources. They can also attend lectures, healthy cooking demonstrations and meet other diabetics. “The support group is a safe place to discuss diabetes with peers and attend local diabetes conferences and expos,” said one group member.
On occasion during their meetings, support group members will have guest speakers. Some of them come from the medical community discussing various advances in diabetic medications. Others come from social services discussing how Medicare/Medicaid impacts diabetics. “Some clients are uninsured and have no medical care when they first arrive in diabetes group,” said Miller. “The group provides a place where each member can share what works for them and how to find affordable services and devices.” There has even been a guest speaker that focused on proper foot care and gave pedicures, for a nominal fee, to clients. She instructed them on appropriate wound care, the importance of nail clipping and how valuable massaging your feet and toes can be to circulation.
All of these elements make for a powerful and supportive environment for those with vision loss. Members learn important strategies and techniques for diabetic management, get access to information and resources and build long-lasting relationships with others. When dealing with both diabetes and vision loss it is essential to have a place where you can get help, support and encouragement. CVI provides that and more in their diabetes support group. “I am glad the group exists because I receive new information and resources on diabetes,” said one group member. “I have learned proper meal preparation and how to use accessible diabetes supplies and devices.”
Are you visually impaired and dealing with diabetes? Do you want a supportive place to discuss diabetes management? If so, the group meets Mondays from 10:15 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. at CVI. For more information on the diabetes group go to CVI’s support group page on its website or call 404-875-9011.