For years, John Whitehead figured he was managing his diabetes well on his own. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of nine, Mr. Whitehead admits he thought he “should know it all” given he had lived with the condition for more than 35 years.
But about five years ago his doctor recommended he visit the team at Niagara Health's Niagara Diabetes Centre because Whitehead was experiencing some health issues. The centre connected him with a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare providers, including endocrinologists (doctors who specialize in diabetes), internists, registered nurses, registered dietitians and a social worker. Now 50, Mr. Whitehead says what he’s learned at the Diabetes Centre has improved his overall health.
“For any diabetic, knowledge is power,” says Mr. Whitehead, who visits the Diabetes Centre every six months. “Before coming to the centre, I always went mainly by how I felt, and my insulin was working. But I didn’t realize I wasn’t doing it well enough.”
For example, Whitehead has learned about the importance of carbohydrate counting and was introduced to wearing an insulin pump that allows him to better manage his insulin levels.
“What I thought I knew and what I learned I didn’t know is huge,” says Mr. Whitehead. “They gave me a book of knowledge that gave me the ability to do my job of looking after myself a lot better. Every time I go there, they usually have another sheet on what to do in certain situations.”
The Niagara Diabetes Centre, which serves about 20,000 people, is a regional program with four locations for people of all ages with diabetes.
A team of diabetes nurse educators and registered dietitians conduct ongoing education programs, counselling and follow-up sessions for patients and their families, helping them live in a healthy and safe manner. The centre also has a dedicated pediatric team of physicians, nurses, social workers and dietitians committed to the specialized care of children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
“Our patients and their physicians are very receptive and thankful to any of our suggestions regarding diabetes management,” says Registered Nurse Rose Bozza, who works as a Nurse Educator at the centre. “Our goal is to keep them motivated and healthy while living the diagnosis of diabetes.”
Mr. Whitehead is thankful for all he’s learned so far at the centre.
“What you don’t know can really hurt you and they can change that,” he says.
To learn more about the Niagara Diabetes Centre, please visit: http://www.niagarahealth.on.ca/site/diabetes-education-centre