Self-managing diabetes, chronic diseases
This is the second article in a multi-part series about diabetes self-management programs offered in Alaska.
Type 2 Diabetes, a disease characterized by abnormally high blood sugar, is among the most common chronic diseases. People of all ages suffer from type 2 diabetes, but older adults are more likely to be diagnosed with this disease and experience diabetes-related complications. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce your risk of developing this disease, and it’s also easy to get screened. For more information about prevention and screening, refer to the resources at the end of this article.
Even after a diabetes diagnosis, it’s possible to live a healthy life. While uncontrolled diabetes can cause dangerous complications, such as cardiovascular disease and nerve damage, self-management can largely prevent these complications.
Several disease self-management programs are available in Alaska to help people manage type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions. In part 1 of this series (April 2016 Senior Voice), we highlighted the Diabetes Empowerment Education Program (DEEP). Another program available to Alaskans is Living Well Alaska.
Living Well Alaska
Living Well Alaska, also known as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP), was developed by Stanford University. Unlike diabetes self-management programs such as DEEP, Living Well Alaska addresses all chronic conditions and is not specific to diabetes. CDSMP classes cover general chronic disease self-management techniques, such as weight management through physical activity and healthy eating; communicating effectively with health care providers; medication management; problem solving; coping with challenging emotions; and dealing with pain and fatigue.
Diabetes-specific disease processes and treatment options are not part of the curriculum, but many people with diabetes participate and find the information very relevant.
People with diabetes benefit from the CDSMP for several reasons. The lessons are applicable to diabetes, and the curriculum includes self-management strategies that are critical to successful diabetes self-management. However, it should be noted that classes do not cover blood sugar monitoring, use of diabetes medications, and management of diabetes-specific symptoms.
The program is also offered in areas where diabetes-specific programs are not available. CDSMP classes have been held around the state in communities including Fairbanks, Palmer/Wasilla, Anchorage, Seward, Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, Sitka and Metlakatla.
Finally, the program is an especially good fit for people who are living with multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis or high blood pressure, because it helps participants manage all of their chronic conditions.
Living Well Alaska is a weekly series of six group classes, each two and a half hours long, offered by two co-leaders. The cost varies by location, with some sites offering the series at no charge.
People with pre-diabetes, family members and caregivers are also encouraged to attend. This program can benefit people of any age, but Caitlin Mackenna, CDSMP leader at the Seward Community Health Center, finds that many senior participants are especially appreciative of the small class size and interactive learning environment.
The program is also easily adapted for people who have hearing or visual impairments, and classes are often taught at convenient locations in each community, such as senior centers, community centers and community health clinics.
For more information about Living Well Alaska CDSMP or to find a class, visit http://www.livingwell.alaska.gov.
Information about diabetes and diabetes risk factors:
Take a type 2 diabetes risk test: http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/diabetes-risk-test/
Next in this series: Stanford’s Diabetes Self-Management Program.
Tazlina Mannix, MPH, is a Health Program Associate for the Alaska State Dept. of Health and Social Services, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.