The article below was written by Craig BeckerAssociate DirectorResidential Services

Living with diabetes can be a lifelong challenge yet also one that can be effectively managed by being mindful of daily routines and taking charge of a few essential lifestyle choices. That is the message that a group of women learned earlier this year when they participated in a 12-week-long education/support group hosted by AHRC New York City’s 163rd Place Residence in Queens. The participants, all who live in Queens residences and self-identify as being diagnosed with diabetes, met every two weeks to share their experiences and expertise in order to support each other in their individual efforts to manage this chronic disease. House management and Direct Support Professionals also participated in the program to ensure that information and strategies could be effectively reinforced in the individuals’ home settings.

Each session, led by regional administration and AHRC nursing staff, stressed the importance of taking personal responsibility: “You are in charge of you!” was always a primary theme. A different element of diabetes management was reviewed at each meeting and all group members were encouraged to participate in discussions related to diet, nutrition, exercise, and medication. In addition, each week group members recorded their weight and their blood pressure–two important factors for everyone to routinely monitor for overall health and fitness, but especially for those managing diabetes.

The ongoing need for emotional support was also emphasized. Participants freely admitted that living with diabetes can often be the source of difficult feelings; group members identified feeling tired, hungry, angry, stressed, anxious, depressed, disappointed, scared, or sick as a result of their condition and recommended building a strong support group as a good way to successfully combat the misperception that “no one else knows how I feel“.

Since diet and nutrition are essential in managing diabetes, each session two simple/healthy/tasty snacks were prepared for all to sample and enjoy. The recipes (all low-sugar and low-salt) were distributed to the participants so that they could make the items at home for themselves and their housemates. A few favorites included cranberry-mango green tea, cannellini tuna wraps, grape-pineapple fizz, and grilled chicken pita pockets with spinach and pear.

Each group member earned a certificate of participation and a “Let’s Beat Diabetes!” workbook as an acknowledgment of their outstanding contributions to the program. Plans are underway to continue the initiative for other interested individuals and staff.